Monday, August 07, 2006

Style Tip: Put Statements in Positive Form

In his Elements of Style, William Strunk wrote, "Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, noncommittal language. Use the word not as a means of denial or in antithesis, never as a means of evasion."

For example:

Instead of John was not very often on time, write John usually came late.

Instead of Lisa did not think that was a very nice thing to say, write Lisa thought that a mean thing to say.

Not is a weak word. Your readers want to know what is.

Certain uses of the negative help though. Placing a negative in opposition to a positive makes a stronger, clearer statement.

Here is an example: Your tone should be friendly and engaging, not distant or intimate.

And yet another...

Ask not what your country can do for
you -- ask what you can do for your country.

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