You Can Do It: Making Negative Messages Positive

Illustration of stick figures holding signs that say "keep it positive!"

When it comes to health content, tone matters. We always aim for a friendly, conversational tone that feels helpful and accessible to our readers. A big part of clinching that tone is making sure we’re framing messages positively — after all, the goal is to inspire people to change their health behaviors for good (yay!).

Some content lends itself to positivity. It’s easy to write peppy, positive health content when you’re, say, encouraging someone to eat healthy or get active. But how do you stay positive when you’re writing about a challenging topic like how to manage an unpleasant chronic disease?

Well, first of all, cut the word “should” out of your vocabulary. Next, challenge yourself to write (and rewrite, if necessary) instructions or advice to sound positive — even when you’re describing a potentially negative experience.

Often, it’s a matter of saying something in the opposite way. (Hint: avoid words like “not,” “don’t,” and “won’t.”)


  • Instead of: “You may not have time to ask all your questions in the first visit with your new doctor.”
  • Say: “You may need a follow-up appointment to get answers to all your questions.”

Sometimes, it takes a little more work to keep something positive — especially if you’re talking about situations that can be dangerous. Adding some extra-friendly content can help soften tough messages.

  • Instead of: “You won’t be able to drive if your seizures aren’t controlled. You’ll need to take public transportation or ask for a ride.”
  • Say: “If your seizures aren’t controlled, it’s not safe for you to drive. But there are lots of ways to get around without driving. Start by finding out about public transportation options in your area, including carpooling and rideshares.”

The bottom line: There may not be a silver lining, but you can make a negative message sound more positive.


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