Usage and Grammar

Q. Clearly, the word “cannot” is in the dictionary as one word. But does this mean that it is incorrect to say “can not” as two words? This controversy is raging in my office and has some people very upset. What are your thoughts?

A. Sometimes you can not say something more easily than you can say it. In the preceding sentence, “can not” is accurate and “cannot” wouldn’t make sense. Constructions like that, however, are often confusing or ambiguous, in which case rephrasing is wise, e.g., Sometimes it’s easier not to say something than to say it.