Abs-E (or, speak only in the positive)

By dkl9, written 2024-021, revised 2024-028 (1 revisions)


"Positive" and "negative", as used here, refer to truth-values and logical structure, rather than emotional valence.

On almost any topic, there are many potential false statements, and comparatively very few true statements. Thus a simple true statement (like "the sky is blue") is usually much more informative than the negation of a similar false statement (like "the sky is not green").

When reading or hearing a negation used in language, you must first process the positive form it contains to understand the entire statement. For example, to understand "the sky is not green", you must first understand "the sky is green", then negate it. Usually, this happens quickly and subconsciously, but it can harmfully slow down or weaken understanding by making you first consider a false idea.

For these reasons, Absolute-English (henceforth Abs-E), where one only speaks in the positive, should be clearer and more honest than current negation-permitting English. I call it Abs-E by analogy to the absolute-value operation in maths, which replaces both positive and negative with only positive. The simple form of Abs-E forbids the words "no", "not", and "-n't" (as in "won't" or "isn't"). The strict form of Abs-E, which may be more effective, forbids all of the following:

The proposal is loosely inspired by the existing E-Prime, which forbids "to be" and all its inflections for its own, different reasons. You could combine the restrictions to make Abs-E-Prime, replacing "the sky is not green" with "the sky appears blue", but I only care about positivity.

Under Abs-E, binary questions ("yes"-or-"no") are less obvious to answer. If your answer would ordinarily be "no", you must instead reply as if the question was open-ended. For example, your reply to "will you be here tomorrow?" may be "yes", or "I will be in the office tomorrow", or "I will stay home tomorrow". This forces you to speak with more information. On average, that makes conversation more fun and lying harder. If your interlocutor knows about Abs-E, they can make questions and answers play out more naturally by replacing all binary questions with open-ended questions, such as "where will you be tomorrow?" in place of "will you be here tomorrow?".

I am serious about following strict Abs-E, at least for some trial time to see its effects. If, in my speech or writing, you find me using a negative form, you are welcome to call it out for me to correct.