I wrote a sentence,

"It was not always effective but painstaking and sometimes seemed like waste of time."

and I wonder whether the words "not effective" and "painstaking" could be connected with the conjunction "but".

I'm confused because it seems quite natural for me at the first glance, but I learned that "not effective" and "painstaking" both also carry some negative meaning.

Does this sentence sound unnatural? Or maybe I should use other conjunction like, for instance, "and"?

  • Welcome to ELL. Our Help Center pages contain advice on how to write a useful question. You might write: "It was not always effective, but it was painstaking and sometimes seemed like waste of time." (There is nothing negative about the word "painstaking." It means showing diligent care and effort. What dictionary told you that it has a negative connotation?) – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Sep 7 '16 at 4:46
  • Please try to include a detailed explanation of the meaning that you are trying to express with every post, in case it is not immediately clear. – Em. Sep 7 '16 at 4:48
  • But is used for contrast. Are you trying to contrast effective with meticulous? If so, try putting it the other way around: It was painstaking but not always effective. Sometimes it seemed like a waste of time. – Lawrence Sep 7 '16 at 4:52

When you contrast two things using but, you generally want to give the impression that one of the concepts is stronger or more important. To do this, you put the emphasized concept after the but.

It was hard work, but it was worth the effort.

In your sentence, you follow on with sometimes it seems like a waste of time, so you want to emphasize not always effective. It would therefore be better to write:

It was painstaking but not always effective, and sometimes seemed like waste of time

Not effective is definitely negative: painstaking can be both negative and positive. Used with a but you are emphasizing the positive side. You could emphasize the negative side by using and rather than but.

It was painstaking and not always effective, and sometimes seemed like waste of time

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