Mea Culpa: take a break and don’t forget to undo the negative

John Rentoul on questions of style and usage in last week’s Independent

Sunday 10 January 2021 00:20
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<p>Working from home? Take breaks, which are not bad for you</p>

Working from home? Take breaks, which are not bad for you

In an interesting article about the importance of taking breaks while working from home, we cited research into office life: “Studies have found that more than a third of British workers don’t leave their desk during their lunch hour, something that has proven benefits when it comes to productivity and your mental wellbeing.” This is a common flaw, and I do it so often myself I have given it a name: “Forgetting to Undo the Negative.”  

It is hard for the writer to spot, because their train of thought makes sense to them, and they fail to see how a reader might follow it differently. Thanks to Steven Fogel, who pointed out that we appeared to be saying that not taking a break has proven benefits.  

The sentence needed to say something like: “A third of British workers don’t leave their desk during their lunch hour, although a break has proven benefits…”  

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