Here's the original sentence:

"Any child not picked up or allowed to walk home on their own prior to the conclusion of the program will be considered unattended."

This is what was meant:

"Any child not 1) picked up or 2) allowed to walk home on their own prior to the conclusion of the program will be considered unattended."

But I think it should have been written like this...

"Any child not picked up or not allowed to walk home on their own prior to the conclusion of the program will be considered unattended."

...so that its meaning is clear.

"Any child 1) not picked up or 2) not allowed to walk home on their own prior to the conclusion of the program will be considered unattended."

Should the word "not" be used twice in this sentence to make the meaning easier to understand and reduce the chance of confusion?

Original Post
Dave O posted:

[. . .] "Any child not picked up or allowed to walk home on their own prior to the conclusion of the program will be considered unattended." [. . .]

Should the word "not" be used twice in this sentence to make the meaning easier to understand and reduce the chance of confusion?

Hello, Dave, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange!

As the sentence is written, it is indeed ambiguous: we can't tell whether "allowed" falls under the scope of "not." In other words, we can't tell whether "or allowed to walk home" refers to a child who is not allowed to walk home or to one who is allowed to walk home.

One way to disambiguate the sentence is the way you have suggested. You can repeat the word "not" before "allowed." Another way you could disambiguate the sentence is by changing the reduced relative clause to a non-reduced relative clause, using "who is":

(1) Any child who is not picked up or allowed to walk home on their own prior to the conclusion of the program will be considered unattended.

In that sentence, "allowed" does clearly fall under the scope of "not." There is no other way to understand the sentence. It means: "Any child who is not picked up and not allowed to walk home on their own prior to the conclusion of the program will be considered unattended."

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