Can one write

a. A group of not well-educated people are very happy with the new measures.

b. A group of people not well-educated are very happy with the new measures.

c. b. A group of people, not well-educated, are very happy with the new measures.

d. A man, not six feet tall, walked into a store.

e. A man, not six-foot tall, walked into a store. ?

Do (d) and (e) mean that the man was shorter than six feet?

Many thanks.

  • (d) and (e) do not imply that the man is shorter than what he is described. It can be that the man may be shorter or taller than that.
    – holydragon
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 9:47
  • 8
    @holydragon I would disagree. The statements do imply that the man is under six feet tall. If not is used to mean, "short of". They do not, however, specifically state that the man is under six feet. There exists the possibility that what is implied is not what is meant. Context is needed, as usual.
    – EllieK
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 12:52
  • I'm voting to close because it's unclear what the specific underlying questions are, why they are being asked, and insufficient context is provided to give a confidently responsive answer. Please edit your question or make one or more new questions, and help us understand why you are asking and what help you need. If you have more than one question (about separate topics, such as the positions of modifiers in noun phrases and meaning differences in the singular vs plural form of foot), it seems better to submit more than one question item. Commented Jun 29, 2018 at 10:23

2 Answers 2


As ably explained by @James in his answer, it is far better to describe someone as they are rather than for something that they are not.

Most of the sentences you list just would not be heard. But the expression "not well educated" may well be used from time to time, as are other similar idioms.

It can soften the impact of a statement if you say [x] is "not very" [y]. For example, in British English we tend to use the idiom "not very well" to describe someone who is unwell, but not seriously ill. When someone is very ill we sometimes say "not at all well", which again softens the statement somewhat.

Saying someone is "not very well educated" is not as strong as saying they are "poorly educated". The former suggests something was lacking in their education, the latter suggests something was perhaps wrong with it, and "uneducated" implies no education at all.

Other examples of being intentionally indirect by saying "not" include:

It happened not five miles from this place.

Meaning it happened less than 5 miles away.

Not to put too fine a point on it

Meaning "to be blunt".


Can one write those sentences - Yes. Should one write those sentences - No.

There may be times when it is important to describe people by saying what they are not, e.g. "The suspect is not armed." However, it is usually much better to describe people by saying what they are. So,

instead of 'not well-educated' try 'poorly educated', 'uneducated', 'undereducated'

instead of 'not six foot' try 'under 'six foot', 'less than six foot' (Note, I am assuming that you meant someone who was shorter than six foot.)

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .