[Foundation-l] WMF resolution on access to non-public data passed

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Tue May 1 19:47:24 UTC 2007

Florence Devouard wrote:

>Ray Saintonge wrote:
>>There is a grammatical error in the Consent resolution procedure cited 
>>above.  "Can not" in two words should probably be "cannot" in one word.  
>>Having it in two words would have the effect of permitting a negative vote.
>Uh ?
>When at school, I remember learning that either we should write "can 
>not" or "can't" ?
>Is not that so ?
Don't believe everything that you learned in school. :-)

Perhaps grammatical "inaccuracy" would have been a better choice than 

In most cases "can not" and "cannot" are indeed interchangeable, and in 
most circumstances and spoken speech it doesn't matter.  Both Fowler and 
the Oxford consider the two forms acceptable, with the one word form 
becoming more common.

Perhaps years of reading tax laws affects the way I read "legal" 
writing.  I often ask myself whether there is a plausibly unexpected way 
of reading a passage. Thus with the clause in question "Modifications to 
the bylaws or articles of incorporation can (not be made) with consent 
resolutions." it reads differently with the parentheses put there to 
indicate a different emphasis.  In French the distinction would be 
between "ne peut pas faire" and "peut ne pas faire".

In speech pauses are phonemic.  Thus we have the title of the Lynn Truss 
book "Eats shoots and leaves" to distinguish it from "Eats, shoots and 
leaves"  In that case a comma distingusishes the two readings which in 
spoken speech would be distinguished by a pause.  Negative constructions 
are notorious for ambiguities.  Consider the alternative clause: "[No] 
modifications to the bylaws or [to the] articles of incorporation 
[shall] ^ be made [by] consent resolution^.  (Changes in brackets, 
omissions marked by carets)  Such a phrasing may also avoid some of the 

"Can't" is a contraction, and as such is not generally acceptable in 
formal writing, but it does have the benefit of being unambiguous in the 
contest we are considering.

English auxilliary verbs can present a big challenge since English is a 
more syntactic language.  Sorry if this seems like a good language rant.


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