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What's the Difference (Words)? Authors' BillBoard - The Authors' Billboard
What’s the difference between can and may? Does it matter? Words make a difference. As an author, I have to be careful with what words I choose. A mother teaches her children (or tries to) to say “May I have a cookie?” which is asking permission, rather than “Can I have a cookie?” meaning, “Am I capable of having a cookie?” Today people use the word “can” to ask permission, so I use it that way when I’m writing dialogue, but not in the rest of the story. When the difference is between can and will, it is a question of being able to (can) as opposed to wanting to do it or not (will). A scripture says, “If any will not work, neither let him eat.” Notice the use of the word “will.” This refers to someone who is able to work, who could find a job, but won’t. He’s lazy. It is not referring to a person who cannot work because he is unable. I think everyone has their set of words that gives them problems when they write. Mine is lie and lay. I always have to stop and look them up whenever I want to use Continue Reading →