In other words, think positive. As in, the answer will be “YES” instead of “NO.”
See if you can find the negative form lurking in the following sentence: Stewart did not think his gerbil to be a good pet. Spot the negative? Stewart DID NOT THINK… Wait a minute. YES, he did! Stewart “THOUGHT.”
Let’s re-write the sentence in positive form, while not changing Stewart’s feelings about his gerbil. Stewart thought his gerbil made a terrible pet.
Notice, when the sentence is written in a clear and positive form, there’s no ring-around-the-rosy about how Stewart feels? His assertion is clear. The positive form also creates a stronger sentence structure.
Another way to put statements in a positive form is to avoid the form of the word “NO” whenever possible. For example: Stewart was not honest with his sister about the gerbil when he said he liked it. Becomes: Stewart lied to his sister when he said he liked the gerbil.
And for a stronger sense of story, try: “Thanks, for the gerbil,” Stewart said to his sister, and then he lied. “I like it.”
Of course, some negatives can actually create a stronger sense of story when placed on the opposing side of a positive. As in: It’s not that Stewart hated his gerbil. It’s that he missed his dog, Max, even more.
Finally, by keeping it positive, we eliminate unnecessary words, and therefore have cleaner prose. For example, compare the word count of: You wouldn’t mind, would you, if I made this gerbil disappear for you? To: Do you want me to make this gerbil disappear for you?
In the end, if we put statements in positive form, we will, as STRUNK & WHITE put it, “Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, noncommittal language.” We’ll be keeping-it-positive-people!