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I was recently writing a testimonial, and I wanted a positive substitute for those words. The adjective is for describing the guy in question (i.e. He is a _____ guy). Any ideas?

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Clarification: You do mean dull in the sense of "uninteresting", right not dull as an additional adjective to describe someone as "not mentally sharp", correct? –  Uticensis Apr 3 '11 at 19:09
    
@Billare:The first one. –  apoorv020 Apr 3 '11 at 19:16
    
Do you consider this to be a positive characteristic of the person? If so, why? Trying to analyse why you think it’s good may help you find a more specific positive term to articulate this (eg dependable, reliable, as in @ChrisO’s answer). If you don’t actually think it’s a positive characteristic, then I’d advise leaving it out rather than trying to euphemise it. –  PLL Apr 3 '11 at 19:37
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You shouldn't think that a "positive" synonym will disguise the insult. –  mgkrebbs Apr 4 '11 at 0:52

6 Answers 6

You might use "reliable" or "dependable", but if "dull" and "boring" do not interfere with other virtues, perhaps you might simply not mention them.

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I considered them too :) –  apoorv020 Apr 3 '11 at 19:01

How about steady, or perhaps predictable?

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I thought 'predictable' but it still feels negatively weighted. 'Steady' isn't bad, though. –  Karl Apr 3 '11 at 19:40
    
Yes, predictable is negative in most contexts — though I’ve heard it used positively as a characteristic of employees. The positive sense has a slightly Dickensian flavour, to my ear. –  PLL Apr 3 '11 at 19:42
    
Yes, you're quite right. –  Karl Apr 3 '11 at 19:50

What about straitlaced? It's a good word for a conventional fellow.

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If you actually want a positive-sounding synonym for dull or boring, about the most positive-sounding word you could use might be unvaried.

Remember, though, that "dull" and "boring" are two words people never want to hear used to describe them.

NOAD takes boring to task pretty severely:

Just as sexy (q.v.) is the ultimate compliment, so boring is the most dreaded pejorative. Yet in most cases this distressing judgment comes as a surprise. Consider an all too common case. You work hard on a speech, and then realize—within five minutes—that you've misjudged the audience: The tuxedoed salesmen want laughs while they chow down on chicken marsala, not a reconsideration of Plato's theory of epistemology. Your address — were it presented to Oxford dons — might be showered with plaudits and huzzahs, but the overstuffed and half drunk listeners of Amalgmated Business Machines merely shuffle restlessly and glance at their Timex watches and hope that their tormentor — you — will just stop talking as soon as possible. Nonetheless, you doggedly soldier on, while secretly wishing you were dead. Therefore, when your turn comes to describe a performer, book, piece of music, weekly meeting, what have you, be kind and think twice: A man may excuse almost any criticism or insult, but he will never forget and never forgive being called boring. [Emphasis added.]

No matter how you dress it up with a synonym, you may wish to avoid even a euphemism for this word.

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“Unvaried” doesn’t seem quite right to me for describing a person — wouldn’t “unvarying” be more natural? Edit: oh, sorry, I see — your answer came before the question was edited to clarify it was describing a person. –  PLL Apr 3 '11 at 19:39
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Sounds like some poor soul at NOAD got called boring once too often. –  Callithumpian Apr 3 '11 at 20:37
    
@Callithumpian: [Yawn] Couldn't you have said something more interesting? –  Robusto Apr 3 '11 at 23:27
    
I will never forget that comment. Ever. –  Callithumpian Apr 4 '11 at 0:16

Depending on how far you are willing to go with bending things into compliments:

  • smooth
  • even keel
  • relaxing
  • easy to understand
  • peaceful
  • graceful
  • quiet
  • passive
  • plain

Another possibility is a negated antonym:

  • not overexciting
  • not overstimulating
  • not busy
  • not stressful
  • not loud
  • not aggressive
  • not too complicated
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Maybe 'uneventful'?

It is the only word I can think of that has managed to remain truly descriptive and stay free of negative connotation.

It was an uneventful afternoon

does not suggest that you had a problem with it, while

It was a boring/dull/tedious/monotonous/etc. afternoon

all seem to carry with them a little more negativity.

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I should have made it clear that I wanted to use the word for the person. So uneventful doesn't really fit the bill –  apoorv020 Apr 3 '11 at 18:53
    
Ah, right. Well, with that in mind, I think 'straight-laced' as suggested by @Billare is a good one. I would also go for conservative or modest, perhaps. –  Karl Apr 3 '11 at 19:10

protected by RegDwigнt Feb 16 '12 at 10:19

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