Saturday, August 21, 2010

Can Not vs. Cannot: Take Your Pick

Brooke writes in:
Dear Snarky,
Whenever I see the word cannot, it just seems all wrong. We don't have 'couldnot' and 'shouldnot,' so we shouldn't have cannot.

Brooke, if it makes you feel any better, I've never been a big fan of cannot either. But we are in the minority; cannot is actually more common than can not. We can, however, console ourselves with the knowledge that we are able to see the weirdness for what it is.

Quick rules:
  • Cannot and can not (and can't, for that matter) are interchangeable.
  • Consider using can not when you want to be more emphatic. No, I can not lend you $500.

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