cannot vs. can not

Subject: cannot vs. can not
From: "Bayne, Sonia E." <BAYNESO -at- AMSWORLD -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 12 May 1999 11:09:22 -0400

Chris Kowalchuk writes:
(start snip) >>Can not, cannot, can't.
>>It's not a "right or wrong" thing, just a formality thing....So, you will
probably have to settle your dispute by some sort of contest, or duel,
because I don't think you are going to find an authoritative answer. :-)
(end snip)

Put away the sabre and duelling pistols, here's the New York Public Library
to the rescue (Writer's Guide to Style and Usage, p.43):
"Cannot, can not, can not only. Cannot is the preferred form except for the
rare instance when a writer wishes to emnphasize the not, for example, in
juxtaposition to can statements: 'You can run and you can hide, but you can
not escape me.' When can not only is used, the trick is to remember that not
is working with only as a conjunction; can is an auxiliary that must be
parallel with the rest of the statement: 'The restaurant can not only serve
a delectable lasagna, but also [can] bake [not bakes] a sinful chocolate
cake.' "

So.. you have the authoritative word, and cake too. Virtual cake, anyway.

Sonia Bayne
Senior Writer, Marketing Communications
AMS Services, Inc.
Windsor, CT 06095
mailto:bayneso -at- amsworld -dot- com

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