Grammar for Fiction Writers: Busy Writer's Guides Book (2014)
Part III. Grammar Rules Every Writer Needs to Know and Follow
Chapter 14. Double Negatives
A double negative is when you use two negative terms side by side. Negative terms include don’t, can’t, won’t, aren’t, not, and so on.
They are generally used to indicate—you guessed it—that something didn’t happen or something wasn’t said.
Unfortunately, a double negative does just the opposite. It indicates that something actually did happen or actually was said because the negatives cancel each other out.
Take the example below:
I didn’t not say I don’t like pizza.
What you’re actually saying, since don’t is a contraction of do not, is “I did not not say I do not like pizza,” which is confusing.
The correct way to say this is “I didn’t say I don’t like pizza,” or even “I never said I don’t like pizza.”
Let’s look at another one.
I don’t not like pizza.
What you’re actually saying, since don’t is a contraction of do not, is “I do not not like pizza,” or, more simply, “I like pizza.”
If you don’t like pizza, you’d say, “I don’t like pizza.”
No matter what happens, it’s not never a good time to use double negatives, because if you don’t not never use double negatives, your reader won’t not never understand what you’re not not saying.
See what we did there? We’d say that the sentence above is about as clear as mud, wouldn’t you? Using double negatives makes your writing confusing. Unless you’re writing a riddle, you should always strive to be as clear as possible in your writing, so that your readers have no trouble understanding you. If your readers don’t understand what you’re trying to say, they won’t remain your readers.