Which are you more likely to write: “Do not waste energy” or “Conserve energy”?
If your writing contains a lot of “no’s” and “not’s,” it’s a signal of negative writing.
Using positive language is a better way to promote your ideas. In the above example, “Conserve energy” is more persuasive because it makes readers feel good rather than admonished.
Here are five examples of negative sentences turned positive:
1. We hope you will not be disappointed with the results.
Positive: We hope you’ll be as pleased with the results as we are.
2. Without proper planning, we will not be able to prevent overcrowding.
Positive: We’re planning thoroughly in advance to keep the crowd to a manageable size.
3. If you don’t like my suggestions, please contact me.
Positive: Please contact me if you have any other suggestions. I’d welcome hearing them.
4. Don’t ignore details; they’re important.
Positive: If you can implement the plan down to the smallest details, you’ll realize better results.
5. This project is going to be nearly impossible to do.
Positive: I want this project to be successful, and to make sure it is, I need your help working around two potential roadblocks.
Other tips for creating positive, clear sentences:
- Choose one adjective. Pick the best one and delete the rest. Example: Replace “He had a tentative, uncertain, hesitant manner” with “He had a tentative manner.”
- Make verbs stand alone. A lawyer might tell you to “cease and desist,” but it’s better to just write “stop.”
- Look for phrases you can replace with verbs. Example: Substitute “We’ll take into consideration” with “We’ll consider.”
— Adapted from Business Writing That Gets Results, David Silverman.
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