Writing for Business

Mar 9 2010   1:30PM GMT

Nor and the double negative

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
We didn’t manage to meet our first energy conservation target date — ____ even the second one.
a. nor
b. or

Answer: b

In this sentence, didn’t covers both dates, so nor would make a double negative. And, although you can sometimes use double negatives, this isn’t one of those times.

In the ProofreadNOW blog, Phil Jamieson explains:

Most (dare we say ALL?) readers will realize that the following double negative is grammatically incorrect: “They don’t have no skis.” However, even many literate writers might miss the double negative in the next sentence:

“We won’t be able to accept your invitation to attend the competition on September 13 nor even the one on September 15.” Change nor to or. Reason: The word won’t covers both the competition on September 13 and the one on September 15.

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