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Monday, March 2, 2015

Week 9 Avoid Indirect and Indefinite Negatives

Not Using "Not"
by Valerie Ipson

Week 9's lesson is another one of those topics you don't often think about, but when it's pointed out, you go, "Ahhhh, yes." It's all about negatives and making them stronger...basically not using NOT when a negative word is available. As an example: "His campaign tactics were not excusable" becomes "His campaign tactics were inexcusable." See how the sentence is stronger the second time around? Direct negatives make the point more emphatically.

More examples:
instead of not agree, write disagree
instead of not supportive, write unsupportive
instead of not sincere, write insincere

You get the idea.

But beware, some words will fool you... "Our boss's contribution was not valuable," changed to..."Our boss's contribution was invaluable." Oops. That doesn't mean the same thing.

The second part of the lesson explains indefinite negatives, like pairing not with an indefinite pronoun. Often this makes for a weak sentence, such as, "I didn't find anything" versus "I found nothing. The second sentence is stronger.

As always, there are exceptions to these "rules." Keep in mind context. "I'm unhappy you're late" comes across a a little stronger when you say, "I'm not happy you're late." Depends on how you want to come across when your teenager walks in the door past midnight....well, maybe this is more like it: "I'M SO NOT HAPPY YOU'RE LATE AGAIN...YOU'RE GROUNDED FOR A MONTH!!!

Like I said, it's all about context.

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