I’ve written here, and spoken in many presentations, about “unintentional negatives”. That is, stating something that would seem to be positive which actually leaves a negative thought in the reader’s mind. An example would be, “There will be no delays and no cost overruns.” Consider the key words that resonate after reading this. For most people, the words ‘delays’ and ‘overruns’ are what they recall.
Another example of this I’ve used during presentations is the response a certain very highly placed elected official gave when asked about his involvement with a female intern. His response was, “I did not have relations with that individual.” What most of us are left thinking after hearing this is, “relations with that individual.” A better response would have been, “I have always been faithful to my wife.” (He might have still been lying, but at least the word that we’re left with is “faithful”.)
I saw a perfect example of an unintentional negative the other day on the side of a truck advertising construction services. The slogan read, “On Time, On Budget, No Exceptions”. The danger here is that the one word recalled after reading this is “Exceptions”. A slight tweak remedies this. IT could have read, “On Time, On Budget, Every time” or “On Time, On Budget, Always”.
One of the responsibilities of proposal content developers (high-impact proposal content is developed, not merely written and for that reason I don’t use the term “proposal writer”) is to rewrite any unintentional negatives so that the word or phrase recalled delivers a positive message.