Jon and I have written and spoken many times about “unintentional negatives”, wherein the focus is actually on something negative rather than positive as intended.
I came across two examples of this recently. One on a product (bubble bath, juniper, oranges and menthol, should you care to know) and the other in an advertisement for an automobile (from 1949, for a Studebaker! I know, way before your time, right Jon?).
I came face-to-face, quite literally, with the first example while attempting to relax and unwind in the bath a few days ago. As I lay in the tub I found myself staring at the bottle of bubble bath (yes, I had just added this to my bath water) sitting on the edge of the tub. A picture of the bottle and its label can be seen in the picture below.
On the back of the bottle the company used words like “soothing”, “calming” and “relaxing”. I wouldn’t have minded seeing those words while soaking in the tub and those are the words that should have been on the label. After all, that was my focus while using the product and it’s the focus of the person purchasing and using this product.
As regards the automobile advertisement for the 1949 Studebaker (No Jon, my magazines aren’t that old.) This advert (as Jon would refer to it) was in one of those “Remember when…?” type cards that a person receives on their birthday (and no, this wasn’t for my birthday. I’m not quite that old yet.)
The ad goes on to state, “What’s more, owners of new Studebakers hardly ever face the problem of finding the money for costly repairs.” Presented this way, the “hardly ever faces” gets lost and the reader is left with the unintentional multi-layered negative phrase “the problem of finding money for costly repairs.” This emphasizes “a problem” finding money” and “costly repairs”.
This too could be presented positively as, “owners of new Studebakers enjoy the low costs as maintenance of this vehicle is minimum and inexpensive.
These help remind me to carefully check content to be sure I have presented information in a positive way and haven’t included an “unintentional negative”.