Are You Writing Too Many Negatives Into Your Sentences?

Avoid use of excessive negatives in your sentences to make your writing more clear.

You’ve probably read news articles that started like this:

The Supreme Court today overturned a lower-court ruling that held unconstitutional a law ending the ban on trans-fats in restaurant food.

What a mess. Few readers will understand after reading that sentence whether the Court ruled in favor of trans-fats or against them. I’m still not sure exactly what the statement says—and I wrote it!

You actually have to map out a sentence like this, starting from the end. First, a law banned trans-fats in restaurants. Then another law ended that ban. Then a higher court undid that law. And on and on.

Don’t do this to your reader.

Some work-related documents are written this way:

HR is ending the practice of allowing department heads to stop project leaders from approving comp time for employees working unpaid overtime.

Re-word the statement to make it clear:

Several department heads have overturned comp time for employees who work unpaid overtime. HR is ending this practice and starting a new policy that grants project leaders the authority to approve comp time for their employees who work unpaid overtime.

About the Author

Robbie Hyman is a professional communications and public affairs writer. He has 15 years’ experience writing for nonprofits, small business and multibillion-dollar international organizations and is available as a freelance writer for federal agencies.

Robbie has written thousands of pages of content, including white papers, speeches, published articles, reports, manuals, newsletters, video scripts, advertisements, technical document and other materials. He is also co-founder of, an online course that teaches smart money habits to teenagers.