Tip: Use positive language

Contented tip: Use positive language


If you want to communicate clearly, use positive language. This is a basic guideline for writing plain language.

Negative language is inherently difficult to use because it has:
• conceptual difficulties (you may be writing about something nonexistent)
• psychological difficulties (negative language makes people feel bad)
• cultural implications (negativity can damage international business relationships).

Be especially careful to avoid using:
• two or more negatives in one sentence
• negative language in forms (application forms etc.)
• 'not only... but also'
• negative questions.

Negative words:
no, not, won’t, never, nowhere, never, nothing, nobody, no-one etc.

Negative bits of words:
un-, de-, dis-, non-, in-, contra-, counter-. anti-, -less.

Words with negative connotations or complications:
however, except, unless, only if, despite, default, remove, cancel, unfortunately, hesitate, refuse, withdraw, error, loss, poor
firehose-Mz
NEGATIVE Please do not hesitate to call me.
POSITIVE Please call me.

UNCLEAR (NEGATIVE) Under no circumstances must this be used [except] in the case of a fire.
CLEAR (POSITIVE) Use this fire hose if you discover a fire.

UNCLEAR (DOUBLE NEGATIVE) Do you agree that the number of police should not fall below the number employed nationally as at 31 January 1997?
CLEAR (POSITIVE) Do you agree that the number of police officers employed nationally should be at least 8000?

Firehose image by Miraz Jordan, Knowit


Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine

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2 Comments

Tweets that mention Contented: content that makes people happy » Blog Archive » Tip: Use positive language -- Topsy.com
Tweets that mention Contented: content that makes people happy » Blog Archive » Tip: Use positive language -- Topsy.com

November 10, 2009

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Contented.com, Contented.com. Contented.com said: Plain language writing tip: Use plain language. Photo of dreaded negative blah on a fire hose, thx. Miraz Jordan. http://bit.ly/3RogLK […]

uberVU - social comments
uberVU - social comments

November 14, 2009

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by AliceandRachel: Plain language writing tip: Use plain language. Photo of dreaded negative blah on a fire hose, thx. Miraz Jordan. http://bit.ly/3RogLK…

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