Recently, in preparation for a lecture I gave at a editorial conference, I did research on the Rebbe's approach to writing. I recalled seeing a very telling response from the Rebbe on the importance of always writing using positive terminology. It took a while to dig up the response, but it was well worth the time and effort.

We have all been drilled: always speak positively when rebuking, always request things in a positive way, don't say no so many times to your kids, etc.

Does this rule, however, apply even when discussing a theoretical subject? When you are not necessarily addressing another or asking someone to do something?

It is clear from the Rebbe's editing patterns that talking and writing positively are always an imperative. Apparently because positive writing has a beneficial influence on the reader's thought process.

This particular response – actually an edit – that I unearthed was penned by the Rebbe on the margins of a letter drafted by one of the Rebbe's secretaries (based on the Rebbe's dictation) for a dinner that was to take place on the day after Passover. The Rebbe writes on the draft: "!!!סגנון דהיפך הטוב הוא" "the wording is the opposite of good!!!"*

Here is the text the Rebbe was referring to:

Had the Jewish children in Egypt not received a Jewish education … there would be no one to liberate…

The Rebbe wrote in Hebrew how the text should be corrected—and this is the way it was translated and appeared in the final version:

…it is only because the Jewish children in Egypt received the proper Jewish education… our whole Jewish people… was liberated from Egyptian slavery…

Here is a copy of the Rebbe's comments on the letter:

Click here to read the entire letter.


*Note that the Rebbe wrote "the opposite of good"—another hallmark of the Rebbe's, never to say or write the word commonly used to connote "the opposite of good."