Can Not Vs. Cannot

The definition of ‘cannot’ is: can not. Yet, the way you write it is a style issue, and it is one word: cannot, meaning can not.

How’s that for quirky English?

This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it is what’s considered an acceptable usage style. If you go by the major style guidebooks–MLA, APA, Gregg, Chicago, etc–you will see that they all recommend using ‘cannot’, the one-word version of ‘can not’.

I frequently see writers use ‘can not’, but ‘cannot’ is the more proper style usage. Be sure when you’re editing and writing to use the one word version.

That said, I do sometimes, on the internet in my very informal blogs, use ‘can NOT’ when I am seeking to emphasize a point on the ‘not’ part of the phrase. This is rare, and again, I only do it on very informal blogs when writing online, because, as I’ve told you in another blog post, NEVER use all caps for emphasis in professional writing.

So – Can Not vs. Cannot – hands down, ‘cannot’ wins!

Keep writing and happy editing!

Love and stuff,