Friday, May 8, 2009

Write from the positive.

You can improve your writing simply by reducing the amount of negatives you use in your sentences. For example, read this sentence:

"It is not possible to reduce inflationary pressures when the federal government does not reduce its spending." Two negatives, right. Confusing, right?

Now, write it from the positive: "When the government reduces its spending, we can reduce inflation" (or something similar to that). Also, note that the sentence begins with "It is," always a poor way to begin any sentence.

OK, try this one: "So long as taxpayers do not refuse to pay their taxes, the government will have no difficulty in paying its debts." That sounds like an SAT question. I think I know what it says, but....

Doesn't it really say: "When taxpayers pay their taxes, the government will pay its debts." Even if you hate to pay taxes, you'll agree that the new and improved sentence is easier to read. And, that's what we're after, kids, writing that's easy to read, easy for the reader.

OK, I've given you the easy sentences. Try this duo of negatives: "The Insured may not refuse to provide the Insurer with all relevant receipts, checks, or other evidence of costs except when such expenses do not exceed $110." Tell me you haven't seen language like this at work.

How did you do on your re-write? Something like this? "The insured must provide receipts (etc) when costs exceed $100."

Are you catching the drift? Yeh? Are you ready for the BIG challenge? OK, try this sentence on for size: "The lack of disconfirming evidence suggests that the results are not open to dispute, unless the absence of data from other investigations is taken as a negative factor."

And, when you're through with that one, try this: "Elections in which there is no attempt at dealing with those issues which do not receive adequate attention during the time when no election campaigns are underway cannot serve the functions for which they were intended."

Send me your interpretations. Or, work on those last sentences tonight, take two aspirins and call me in the morning. In any event, I guarantee you won't use negatives in your writing again!

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