Cannot vs. can not

Subject: Cannot vs. can not
From: cll01821 -at- lycos -dot- com
To: melmis36 -at- hotmail -dot- com
Date: Mon, 09 Jan 2006 10:55:19 -0500

Hi, Melissa.

I researched this issue in the Spring when an engineer refused to change "can not" to "cannot". He said that it was not an error because Microsoft Word did not flag it as an error; Microsoft Word does not flag "can not" as an error because there are times when it can be correct.

"You cannot enter a blank password." means that you are not able to enter a blank password. In other words, the software won't let you do it at all.

"You can not enter a blank password." means that you have the option of not entering a blank password." In other words, the software is not keeping you from entering a blank password. You have a choice of entering or not entering a blank password.

Since "can not" can be ambiguous, it is often clearer to rewrite the sentence entirely. For example, in the first example, use "Blank passwords are invalid."

Here's an interesting MSDN blog about this:

"I cannot bear this discussion any longer!" or "I can NOT bear this discussion any longer!" :)



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