JS Tip 175: From the Writing Workshops: Conveying Meaning

Last week, we asked you if these sentences meant the same:

Please note that all of our translated books are not currently listed on this page.

Please note that not all of our translated books are currently listed on this page.

You gave us a tremendous response. Probably greater than any other Tips question. Thank you.

A majority of you felt the sentences meant the same, but the second was easier to read. (Mainly because “not” and “all” were co-located. Together. Separating them kept the brain in doubt.)

A sizeable minority said they don’t mean the same. Many felt that “not all” meant a portion, while “all . . . are not” meant none. Zippo. Nada. Rien. A subtle difference, but, nevertheless, a difference.    

The Lesson Learned

Hey. Communication is tough. What we intend may not be what our audience understands.

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