Writers and editors know to avoid double negatives in formal writing.
You would probably scramble to correct a sentence like this on your company website: “The facility will not allow no more visitors after 10 p.m.” However, double negatives still exist.
The sentence below came from a press release sent by a federal agency:
“It is not uncommon for a firm, based on its own appropriate evaluation of potential suppliers and raw material, to change the source of a raw material after the device has been cleared by the FDA . . .”
This sentence could be improved by changing the double negative “not uncommon” to “It is common for a firm, based on its own appropriate . . .”
These types of double negatives cause confusion, as readers must go back and re-read to understand your meaning. Worse yet, some double negatives convey the opposite of what’s intended, such as the following example:
The researchers cannot barely contain their excitement at the discovery.
Song lyrics are also often full of double negatives:
To steer clear of the grammatical faux pas, remember that many ordinary words have negative meanings. Avoid using “not” with these words:
Below are examples of confusing and questionable double negatives, along with their alternatives:
Incorrect: I cannot hardly wait to read that book.
Correct: I can hardly wait to read that book.
Unclear : I am not unconvinced by your argument.
Clear : I am convinced by your argument.
Unclear: The salary increase they are offering is not insignificant.
Clear: The salary increase they are offering is significant.
Unclear: He is not unattractive.
Clear: He is attractive.
How about you, PR Daily readers? What examples of double negatives would you add to the list?
This post was first published on Ragan Communication’s PR Daily.