Sentences that follow a negative verb with because create confusion for readers.
I don’t love you because you’re beautiful.
No man can safely say this to his girlfriend because she hears the negation first and doesn’t listen to anything else he says. Our readers, like the girlfriend, hear “I don’t love you,” and then believe what follows to be an explanation for our heartlessness.
We meant to say, of course, that we do love our girlfriend, but that she is special in many ways, only one of which is her beauty. But that’s not what we said. To make sure she listens to our entire declaration, not just the first four words, we need to revise our first draft:
Good: I love you, but not because you’re beautiful.
Good: I love you not just for your beauty.
BEST: I love you for your beauty and your generous heart.
Clearly (at least I hope it’s clear to you, gentlemen) the boldest, most specific, most straightforward claim, without negatives, is the best. And of these sentences, the best are those that eliminate the because altogether.
In Class Exercise
Copy these sentences adapted from student essays into the Reply field below and revise them for boldness, specificity, and directness. Replace negative verbs with positive verbs. (Example: replace didn’t resign with declined to resign)
1. Coats wasn’t fired because he was using a legal drug, marijuana, for a legitimate purpose for which he had a prescription. He was fired for violating workplace policy.
2. An employer isn’t able to fire a person who has anxiety because they are taking the correct medication to deal with the issue.
3. Employees don’t get fired for going out and having a few beers after work because alcohol is legal, but in Colorado so is marijuana.
4. Coats shouldn’t have been fired because he was trying to treat the pain he endured on a daily basis.
5. It’s not fair to discriminate against him because he was able to ease the pain of his multiple spasms by using marijuana.
6. Coats wasn’t harming anyone at his job because he was smoking marijuana but he was doing so on his own time and not at work.
BACKGROUND FOR 7-10: The director of the Secret Service ordered an internal review of its security procedures around the White House after a man armed with a knife who jumped the fence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Friday night managed to make his way through the front door of President Obama’s home before being stopped, officials said Saturday.
7. Omar Gonzalez didn’t penetrate deep into the White House because of the swift actions of Secret Service agents.
8. The Secret Service isn’t being compelled to explain its actions because of the way it responded to the breach of the White House, but how the breach occurred is under question.
9. Secret Service chief Julia Pierson won’t be fired because of her testimony before Congress yesterday. Her incompetence might cost her her job though.
10. Secret Service agents didn’t use deadly force against the intruder because he was carrying a knife with a 4-inch blade.