Don’t bring no double negatives . . .

Posted: February 14th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Plain English: Tips | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

We all know to avoid double negatives, such as “He is not bringing no bananas.” But we should be equally wary of the double or triple conceptual negative, in which one negative concept cancels out another negative concept, which cancels out the original negative concept.

For example, what is “a decision vacating an injunction prohibiting the state from requiring a sex offender to register?” Think positively and say “The decision allows the state to require a sex offender to register.” If you must explain the procedure more precisely, do so in a follow up sentence: “Specifically, the court vacated an injunction. . . .” (Your reader will forgive the conceptual double negative in the “specifics” if you have already translated the double negative for them.) What does it mean if “A court reversed a decision enjoining the enforcement of a regulation that prohibited the use of alcohol?” Simply say that “The Appellate court allowed the town to prohibit the use of alcohol” and follow up with a sentence detailing the procedural history, if necessary. “The speech would not be an unprotected expression under the First Amendment” means that “The speech would be a protected expression.” “The court voted not to allow” means that “The court voted to prohibit.” “It is unlikely to be inaccurate” means “It is likely accurate.”

So don’t be so negative. Stay positive!

 

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