Business & Technical Writing/Connotations



I would like to ask a question about the words crafty, sly, and cunning. I want to know that are these words always used in a negative connotations or are they used positively, too?

For example,

"Jamie was crafty enough to escape from the gang."


"Jamie was cunning enough to escape from the gang."

Context:- The context of this sentence is that gangsters were running after Jamie to kill him and rob him, but he was crafty/cunning enough to escape from them and save his life.

So the words crafty, sly, and cunning are always used in a negative connotations or are they used positively, too?



I do not regard either of these words as mostly negative, and certainly in the example you give they both are definitely positive descriptions. They can be used negatively in some contexts, but I should think they'd mostly be thought positive attributes and descriptions of intelligence.

Hope this helps.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Thanks for your answer. I asked this question because people usually think that "cunning" or "crafty" is always used in a negative connotation. However, you said that it can be used in a positive connotation. I can see that what you are saying is true. I read this read here:-

The article says, "Some plants protect themselves using cunning tricks with chemicals." (Positive connotation)

If I write "God was crafty/cunning to scheme against the enemies of his people." Is this sentence a positive connotation, too?



I think that no god worthy of being called a god would have to scheme against the enemies of his people. He wouldn't have to be cunning or crafty, he'd just zap them and be done with it. That we still find ourselves going to war with each other over this or that interpretation of god is a strong indication that none of these alleged gods actually exist. And if one or more of them do exist, they are not moral beings and are not deserving of our worship. So no, I don't think calling any god cunning or crafty is a complement. It implies they are not actually gods.

In particular, it is my considered opinion that if the alleged god of Abraham actually existed and were a moral being he would have long since ended the arguments amongst the various people (Jews, Muslims, Christians, in all their idiotic theological variety) who think they are his "chosen" by simply showing up and settling once and for all which version of him is actually correct.


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Dan Smith


I have been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years, taught speech and English composition at the university level, and have developed speech and English composition courses and seminars for businesses. I am experienced in editing a wide variety of materials, especially business, scientific, and other academic papers. I am familiar with all the major style guides.


I have edited any number of graduate papers and other technical materials in such advanced fields as clinical psychology, civil and electrical engineering, and semiconductor fabrication. I have extensive experience in working with non-native English speakers.

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