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Is this double/triple negative grammatically sound?

Ordered operations require that space on disk is allocated sequentially, so spatial ordering corresponds to chronology of operations, but actual disk writes need not to be neither atomic nor ordered.

Explanation:

Words neither and nor emphasize on the fact that both conditions are (independently) allowed to remain unsatisfied, that both are optional. To be more formal, "need not be atomic and need not be ordered". But then again, it becomes a concoction of two negations joined by a conjunction.

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    No. "...need not be atomic or ordered."
    – Jim
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 0:33
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    You don't need the first 'not'. "actual disk writes need to be neither atomic nor ordered." Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 0:37
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    @James- I think must is a bit strong. It's not that they mustn't be, it's just that they don't need to be.
    – Jim
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 0:44
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    Ah yes, I misunderstood completely. It's much clearer now. "disk writes need be neither atomic nor ordered" because both are optional.
    – James
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 1:12
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    @Jim: wouldn't "need not be atomic nor ordered" also work? That's what I first thought of.
    – herisson
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 1:57

2 Answers 2

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No. The sentence as written is over-negated. You can't use "not" and "neither" together; you want "not... either."


"Need not to be" is also grammatically incorrect.

We can say "don't need to be." The uncontracted equivalent of that would be "do not need to be." You need to use the auxiliary "do" because it is negative.

If you don't include "do," you can use a separate construction, "need not be," where "need" functions a bit like an auxiliary. In this construction, you do not include "to" before the infinitive.

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  • I appreciate the theoretic explanation but I dont know how to put that all into a full sentence.
    – ArekBulski
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 16:53
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As with most Boolean expressions, you can factor this out to be:

Ordered operations require that space on disk is allocated sequentially, so that spatial ordering corresponds to the chronology of operations, but actual disk writes need not be either atomic or ordered.

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