“All Are Not” Should Usually Be “Not All”

By Mark Nichol

Sentences that refer to exceptions to a rule are frequently flawed by faulty construction. Here are five such statements and their fixes.

1. “Just as all habits aren’t bad, all infinite loops aren’t, either.”
Revision: “Just as not all habits are bad, not all infinite loops are, either.”

2. “But all of its coffee is not fair trade.”
Revision: “But not all its coffee is fair trade.” (I also deleted the extraneous of.)

3. “In many parts of the world, egg donation and embryo donation are not permitted, and all religions may not allow for surrogacy.”
Revision: “In many parts of the world, egg donation and embryo donation are not permitted, and not all religions may allow for surrogacy.”

4. “All that’s beautiful about the Wind Cave National Park does not lie beneath its surface.”
Revision: “Not all that’s beautiful about the Wind Cave National Park lies beneath its surface.”

5. “So all hikes don’t have to be a same-day round-trip excursion, there are ten developed campsites.”
Revision: “So not all hikes have to be a same-day round-trip excursion, there are ten developed campsites.”

Normally, I annotate each item in this type of post with an explanation of what’s involved in the specific revision. In this case, however, the solution for each is the same simple step: Insert not before all, and alter the negative proposition farther along in the sentence to a positive proposition. (Usually, all that’s required is deletion of not or its contraction, though the last item requires the removal not only of the contraction in don’t but also do itself.)

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6 Responses to ““All Are Not” Should Usually Be “Not All””

  • RobinC

    I think it would be “None of its coffee is fair trade.”

  • Nelson Carter

    Yes, Robin, it would be if you interpreted the original sentence literally as written. But I’m pretty sure that’s not what the writer was trying to say. “All is not” is not the same as “not all is,” which is the basic point of this article.

  • Lucas

    Yes, Nelson, I agree with you. For the same reason, the original sentence number 4 doesn’t make sense.

  • Oliver Lawrence

    The solution to no. 5 also needs to remove the comma splice:

    from
    “So not all hikes have to be a same-day round-trip excursion, there are ten developed campsites.”

    to
    “So not all hikes have to be a same-day round-trip excursion; there are ten developed campsites.”

    or
    “So not all hikes have to be a same-day round-trip excursion, for there are ten developed campsites.”

  • Mark Nichol

    Oliver:

    There is no comma splice in this sentence, but the insertion of a word would make it clearer that so is not setting up a conclusion (in which case a comma should follow it): “So that not all hikes have to be a same-day round-trip excursion, there are ten developed campsites.” Better yet, the sentence could be improved by reversing the clauses: “Ten developed campsites are available so that not all hikes have to be a same-day round-trip excursion.”

  • David B.

    My favorite is the “fine print” seen in so many advertisements: “Not available in all stores.” Well, if it isn’t available, why advertise it?

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