Usually, double negatives are absolute No-No anywhere. But, I bring this up for discussion because I see some of us use them—in workplaces and outside. Now, why would we use them? Because we hear people around us using them. Simple logic: if everyone is using it, it must be right. Oh, you can blame it on Hollywood’s portrayal of the good Ol’ Texas ranches and Cowboys, too.
A double negative is when you use two negatives together. For example, “I don’t know nothing.” The trouble is that there are exactly two interpretations of it. First, the obvious deduction “I know, at least, something.” And, second, its distant cousin, “I, literally, don’t know anything.” It is quite possible that while you wished to say (and mean) the latter one, you end up being understood as meaning the first one. It is confusing.
So, AVOID using it. How do you avoid using it? Simple. Use one negative expression. Just say (and, hopefully, mean) “I don’t know anything”.
But, not always will you or can you avoid. For example, “She didn’t go unnoticed in the party”. In this case, we wish to say that there, indeed, was someone who took a notice of her. You should dare to use a double negative only in situations like these. I say dare for a reason: look at the title of this post. Did you see how in some cases two negatives make a positive?
Let us say, the English and math do have something in common. The exception is, two “minuses” don’t always make a “plus” in the English language.
Yes, I know that the standard, default spell checker on your word processors is the only good thing about those word processors other than their existence – relax, we won’t talk about the formatting glitches and dependencies in this post. But, we all will agree that none of the automatic or system-driven spell check processes is a 100% accurate.
Here’s a list of the mistakes that my or your, spell checker doesn’t catch:
- Dangling truth: I start the list with my favorite, “Siya walked her dog in a short skirt.” Wait, what? Who did you say was wearing a short skirt?
- All spellings correct: Yes, it is possible that what you might have written is correct yet incorrect. Consider the following fragment from an email I accidentally sent the last week. I swear that as soon as I had hit the Send button, I had seen that mistake. But, alas! Only if I could trigger a recall for that email:
“We would appreciation frequent communication regarding…” The word should have been “appreciate”.
- Missed words: I will ask, “Could you catch the change of tense in the previous point?” Some of you might say, “Well, No. We were busy reading a of” Now did you catch it? But, did the spell checker catch it? Let that remain a question for now.
- Your preferences: It is true that the spell checker does check for the grammar, but it doesn’t consider some of my writing standards. Here is my logic: “Whether” by itself is a question, so there isn’t any sense in writing “or not” after it to list all possibilities. So, “Just tell me whether it is possible” should be enough.
- A tensed situation: There is this concept of parallel construction. But, before we talk about that, let us talk about the concept of tenses. How about keeping only one sense of time all along your write-up. People used to follow this principle a long time ago. They still do. But, who cares! Even if I changed the tense, would the spell checker check it? Did the spell checker check it? It didn’t, right? See!
- Glaring inconsistencies: Did you notice that I used both “here is” and “here’s” in this post? If you did, probably I should hire you instead of my default spell checker. The point is, the spell checker cannot catch such inconsistencies in your write-up. So, if you use different (but acceptable) spellings of words or their acceptable shortened forms, the spell checker will not catch that. This isn’t exactly a mistake but a miss is a miss
The good news is, there is always a solution to your problems. In this case, the solution is to use either a good spell checker, like Grammarly (it is sad that they didn’t pay me for their advertisement) or another pair of human eyes to run a quick check for you.
May the spellings be with you. Happy writing.