The word wont - for example: 'I wont do it!'. Should it be spelled wont or won't, is there an American/English difference?

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    +1 I think this is actually a good question. Is the word wont, spelled as such, an actual contraction? Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 15:56
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    Have you tried looking it up in a dictionary? What did that tell you? Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 15:57
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    So one of the sentences from the Google Books search results is "PeTer ond Tony did os he sold. “Suppose They wonT To Toke o closer look oT us?" Many of the books have been digitized by scanning and running an OCR algorithm without any sort of editing after the fact. I think it would be more interesting to find an example or two that aren't likely typos or digitization errors. For example, some (non-OCR) text where it appears many more times than once so it seems that the author intentionally wrote it that way.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 19:22
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    @ColleenV Exposing a classic example of skimpy research. There should be a 'Sherlock' badge. Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 15:33
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    @MariLouA Since this question is reclosed, the other senior member arguing to keep it has left, and we've discussed the matter on meta, with my answer being the top voted answer (if not only by default), I'm rolling this back to Revision 1. This is not only because the votes lead me to believe the established community consensus is that these edits have exceeded the scope of acceptable edits as I mentioned in my answer, but also that I want the established closure reason to make more sense to people upon seeing it on first impression.
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 17:20

2 Answers 2


From some reason the above question has raised a lot of issues about its being on topic and helpful for a site like ELU. Actually the use of the apostrophe, like other aspects of the English language are subject to changes acoording to trend in usages of those who use the language. The following article from The Telegraph presents an interesting analysis on the use of the apostrophe, from its earliest usages to the more recent trends which are in favour of a less invasive presence of the apostrophes.

Though I'd recommend OP to use won't (not wont) as a contraction of will not, it is interesting to note that there are grammarians who advocate a limited use of apostrophes:

  • George Bernard Shaw denounced apostrophes as "uncouth bacilli", and conspicuously ignored them.

  • The critic C C Barfoot called their use "the single most unstable feature of written English". The antagonism continues to grow. (By William Langley)

The unloved apostrophe:

  • The problem child of English grammar is a tiny, tadpole-shaped bundle of trouble that makes no sound, but spells chaos. Three centuries after it invaded our language (almost certainly sneaked in by the French), the apostrophe continues to defeat, confuse and humiliate large numbers of people, and, in retaliation, they want to abolish it.

  • Then we wont have to worry about where its supposed to go.

  • Last week Birmingham city council announced that it would no longer use apostrophes on street signs. Councillor Martin Mullaney, the Liberal Democrat chairman of its transport scrutiny committee, claimed that dropping them would make the city's signage policy "more consistent", and easier for users of computer databases and satellite navigation systems. Apparently, if you have the misfortune to be a Mr O'Dowd, needing a minicab from the King's Arms in D'Arcy Avenue, drivers can't find you. So, St Paul's Square, an elegant, late-Georgian landmark in Jewellery Quarter, will become St Pauls Square. We'll have the fashionably de-apostrophised Druids Heath and Acocks Green, but things are unlikely to stop there. Once they start to slide they slide quickly, and it surely won't be long before Great Charles Street, in the shopping district, becomes GR8 Chas St.

  • It is tempting to blame all this on the march of the knuckle-dragging illiterates who populate the lower ranks of officialdom, commerce and much else, but a substantial part of the responsibility lies elsewhere.

  • Particularly with the fashionable clique of modern grammarians which has the apostrophe in its sights. Prominent among this bunch are the likes of John Wells, emeritus professor of phonetics at University College London, who argues that strict rules of spelling and grammar "hold children back", and the linguist Kate Burridge, author of Weeds in the Garden of Words, who wants the possessive apostrophe scrapped. Prof Wells wants to replace the apostrophe with a blank space, and when Ms Burridge argued at a public meeting that it should be dropped, she was loudly booed and told that she said "you know" too much to be taken seriously. She is now engaged on a campaign to have the "Yeah-but-no-but" catchphrase of Little Britain dimwit Vicky Pollard entered into the Oxford English Dictionary.

  • The apostrophe, then, is not entirely friendless. John Richards, a retired newspaper sub-editor and founder of the Apostrophe Preservation Society, based in Boston, Lincolnshire, believes that most of us are fond of it, and struggle with its complexities only because we are set a poor example. Think, he says, of Barclays Bank, Butlins holiday camps and all those ladies wear departments in the stores. And now Birmingham is abandoning the fight. "They are taking the dumbing-down route, setting a terrible example, and letting down everyone who tries to teach proper grammar and punctuation," he says. "How difficult is it, really, to use an apostrophe?"

  • Sadly, on the current evidence, too difficult. The misuse of the apostrophe has spread everywhere, including into our classrooms. A recent survey of teachers found that almost half were unable to place one accurately in the sentence: "The Smiths' house is a disused windmill." Two thirds wrongly inserted one into: "The 70s was a great decade for music." Why so hard?

  • The apostrophe only has two real functions. In contracted verbs and pronouns it indicates something left out. as in "aren't" or "he'll". It also forms singular and plural possessives – eg "king's" or "kings'". Compared with some of the orthographical horrors lurking within the English language it should be a piece of cake, yet even the best-read and brightest can fail, or, at least refuse, to grasp it.

  • George Bernard Shaw denounced apostrophes as "uncouth bacilli", and conspicuously ignored them. The critic C C Barfoot called their use "the single most unstable feature of written English". The antagonism continues to grow. And so, towards its death bed, the apostrophe has slipped – hastened on its way by trendy teaching, the proliferation of punctuation-free emailing and the seemingly unstoppable spread of hand-scrawled signs in the High Street that say "Best Carrot's" or "Todays Special".

The loved apostrophe:

  • Yet the advantages of proper usage are all-too obvious. Consider two examples offered by Britain's leading apostle of the apostrophe, Lynne Truss: "Those smelly things are my brothers." Now drop in the apostrophe and you get a different meaning: "Those smelly things are my brother's." Or this: "The dog's like my dad." Without the apostrophe it becomes more agreeable: "The dogs like my dad." Unlike the determinedly purist French, the British have no equivalent of the Académie Française to defend their language. No government body – certainly not the Estuary-spouting Tessa Jowell's absurd Ministry of Culture Media and Sport – stands up for the endangered glories of the English tongue. The best we have are the likes of Ms Truss, author of the hit grammar book Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and the BBC's John Humphrys, who believes text messaging is "doing to our language what Genghis Khan did to his neighbours 800 years ago… destroying it: pillaging our punctuation; savaging our sentences; raping our vocabulary."

The long history of the apostrophe in the English language:

  • To fight back, we have to understand how the apostrophe became a feature – albeit a late one – of written English, and why it still has a role to play. Its roots lie in ancient Greece where the oratorical tradition included a device known as apostrophein, which literally meant "to turn away" but which, in practice, described the moment at which a speaker would turn from the audience to address people or things unseen. The word came to express the idea of something missing.

  • By the late Middle Ages it was appearing as "a floating comma" in books of Italian verse, and arrived in Britain, most probably from France, in the 16th century. Authors found it useful for forming elisions, and so making clear how a word was pronounced. Thus kiss'd would show that the word kissed had one syllable rather than two.

  • Confusion started when the apostrophe became an indicator of possession. Even educated scholars, according to Lynne Truss, struggled with "geniuses" and "genius's", and, particularly, the treatment of historic plurals such as "women" and "children". Slowly, the apostrophe gained a reputation for being awkward.

  • "But it isn't really," insists Richards. "It just needs to be understood, and treated with respect. I first started this society in despair at the number of mistakes I saw. I thought what a shame it was that something so useful was treated so badly." He began writing polite letters to proprietors of places such as "The Modern Mans Barbers Shop", and while not everyone took the advice kindly, his campaign made news around the English-speaking world. He was deluged with messages of support. "I've heard of people carrying felt pens and rolls of sticky tape around to correct mistakes," he says. "They are very attached to their apostrophes." So they should be. In an age of falling standards, apostrophes stand as a line of defence. And when theyre gone, theyre gone.

  • It's an interesting read, but the bulk of the answer seems focussed on the possessive apostrophe rather than it's usage in contractions. I don't think we'll be seeing any of the following examples, sans apostrophe, any time soon: e.g. Ill, youll, hell, shell, well, theyll, OR Id, youd, hed, shed, wed, theyd and the question was primarily concerned with contractions.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 16:47
  • @Mari-LouA - the article refers to the use of apostrophes, and cites its two main functions, the contraction and the possessive. I dont think it is against only one function, though the possessive use is probably the more problematic.
    – user66974
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 17:01
  • And I said the "bulk" of the article which you quoted is about the possessive, which is not present in the actual question. Why do we write "won't" instead of willn't? We can also write we'll not instead of "we won't". Which form is more common? Do some native speakers confuse "want" with "wont"? Is that confusion due to differences in pronunciation?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 17:08
  • @Mari-LouA - those questions are the subject of the "duplicate" reference cited in the comments above. Here the topic is, "apostrophe or not apostrophe"?
    – user66974
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 17:10
  • Where does the OP mention apostrophes? it's not in the original and it's not in the edits. There's an opportunity here to say why won't is a contraction, or that it isn't.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 17:47

I feel that you confused two different words: Wont and won't, which the latter is actually a contraction of 'will not'.

As you can see in the related links, wont is 'to have the habit of doing something' related to Middle English 'woned'. And won't is the contraction of 'will' and 'not', with known meanings in english.

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    I don't thin OP is confused. OP is just asking if wont as a single word can be under any circumstances can be accepted as a contraction of will not.
    – user66974
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 18:04
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    @Mari-LouA - that is just an example, others are correct, only wont apparently misses an apostrophe.
    – user66974
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 20:36
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    It's either printing errors, OCR errors, or people not knowing the difference between won't and wont. And... maybe someday soon everyone will be writing won't as one word. It could come sooner than I fear :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 21:09
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    On Google Ngram, the phrases to check are "his wont" and "my wont," where there's less chance of typos.
    – Xanne
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 4:12
  • Shouldn't that be fewer? Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 13:52

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