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Cognitive Accessibility Design Pattern: Avoid Double Negatives or Nested Clauses

User Need

I need to understand the language used, including vocabulary, syntax, tense, and other aspects of language.

What to Do

Use a simple sentence structure.

This includes:

  • do not use a double negative to express a positive, and
  • do not use clauses inside clauses.

How it Helps

Simple sentence structure benefits many people, including those with language impairments, dyslexia, or a memory impairment. Both double negatives and nested clauses can be confusing.

For example, more people will understand “You must get the agency’s approval before we can answer your claim”, rather than “No approval of any claims can be achieved without the agency’s approval.”

Simple language allows more people to understand. For example, a person with early stage dementia can manage their own affairs when the language is clear and understandable.



  1. Short text without double negatives. For example: “Write clearly”.


  1. Double negatives that can be replaced by a positive. For example:
    • Do not write unclearly.
    • Time is not unlimited.
  1. Long sentences with lots of commas and conjunctions. For example:
    • Usually, clauses will be separated by two commas, one before and one after or the word “or”, or the word “and”, so you could replace the sentence with a list of options or even more than one paragraph.

User Stories and Personas

User Story



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