Negative Words to Avoid in Writing

, Staff Writer
Updated August 15, 2016
negative words to avoid in writing
    negative words to avoid in writing
    miodrag ignjatovic / E+ / Getty Images

In academic and business writing, it is important to accentuate the positive. Therefore, it’s important to know what negative words are and learn how to avoid using them. Here are some tips on avoiding negative words.

Words to Avoid in Writing

If you want a positive response to your memo or report, then do not use negative words. Pointing out problems and belittling people will not be helpful.

Some negative words to avoid in writing are:



do not




little value







unable to




Here are some examples of what not to say:

  • These reports are of little value and are causing problems in the office.
  • Don't use an A-12 form when reporting absences.
  • The project cannot be completed because some people are not doing their jobs.
  • It is impossible to complete this job on time.
  • There is little value in the feedback offered.

Words to Include in Writing

Your purpose in writing needs to be on the solution, not the problem. All communication needs to sound collaborative and positive, and instructions need to be clear and tell the reader what to do, rather than what not to do.

Positive words to use include:

  • benefit
  • it is best to
  • issue
  • matter
  • progress
  • success
  • unfortunate
  • valuable

Here are the positive ways to write the formerly negative examples:

  • Thank you for discussing the letters. As we agreed, the letters will now have…
  • Use form A-24 when you report absences.
  • We must get everyone's data by Thursday to complete the project on time.
  • The progress with the job is slower than expected, but we are learning valuable lessons for next time.
  • Feedback is a valuable tool for ensuring progress as a team.

Other Ways to Write Effectively

Writing needs to focus on the concrete, not the vague or abstract. Instead of saying, "I feel' or "I believe", just tell it like it is.

Use Action Words

Use action words such as:

  • work
  • improve
  • complete
  • succeed
  • use

Using the active voice in writing makes the text concise, understandable, and strong.

Here are some examples of active and passive voice:

Active: The department increased sales.

Passive: Sales were increased by the department.

Active: Employees need to wear safety glasses.

Passive: Safety goggles need to be worn by employees.

See how the active voice is less wordy, easier to understand, and has more impact? You will get a better response if the reader understands and you are clear and precise.


Clear Writing and Simple Language

Write clearly by using short sentences that don't have extra phrases, commas, or parentheses. Keep your language simple and don't use big words when a simpler one will do. Replace long, wordy phrases with one word whenever possible.

Here are some examples:

  • as of this date = from
  • by means of = by
  • so as to = so
  • in the event that = if
  • at the present time = now
  • for the purpose of = of

Check Tone & Writing Courteously

One good way of getting a positive response to a letter, report, or memo, is to be courteous. Being courteous is not just about saying "please" and "thank you." It is also the tone of your writing. Here are some things to think about so that your writing is received in a good light:

  • Thank people for their contribution or work.
  • Acknowledge emails and letters.
  • Try to sound neutral rather than confrontational.
  • Focus on the positive and write using positive words.
  • Don't use the word "you" as it can sound like an attack.
  • Show you care.
  • Soften bad news by leading up to it.
  • Don't demand, rather start sentences with "I want" or "I would like".

Lastly, explain problems by introducing them using words such as:

  • somewhat
  • rather
  • slight
  • a little

This will minimize them, so you don't sound like an alarmist.


Keeping Writing Positive

Tone is important when it comes to professional writing. Therefore, you want to make sure you avoid the use of negative words that can alarm your audience. Looking for ways to keep your communications positive? Try out these words of appreciation.