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This is a case where afaik there is no existing word spelled "dont" which is confusing. Is there any evidence that this is becoming or will become acceptable spelling? More broadly, is texting and Internet usage going to become acceptable in standard books? I see no reason for example that "u" or perhaps "U" can't replace "you" as much as seeing it in emails a couple of decades ago used to rankle.

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    Dont u fink in da future, writing wont evah b proper? – Mari-Lou A Jul 6 '18 at 9:44
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Writing "don't" instead of "dont" is certainly not strictly "necessary". But little in language is. Rather, it's conventional. Wearing matching socks is not necessary either, but if you flout social convention without a reason that other people see as convincingly strong, you're liable to be thought of as eccentric.

Abbreviated writing is much older than texting and the internet. People have used it in note-taking or shorthand, telegraphy, and even in formal texts at some points in time (medieval scribes used a lot of abbreviations; I'd imagine to save on space, ink and time). Since non-abbreviated spellings have survived through all that, I doubt that they're going to be rendered obsolete by the modern phenomenon of texting.

Similarly, the apostrophe, despite being unnecessary, is still beloved by many people who see themselves as "sticklers" for "correct" spelling or something like that (they may describe the use of the apostrophe as "proper grammar", even though it has little to do with what linguists think of as real grammar).

Using spellings like "dont" in formal or official contexts is stigmatized as an error, and I see little signs of any recent decrease in the stigma that English users attach to "incorrect" spellings. But nobody knows for sure what will happen in the future.

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    Also, the apostrophe is somewhat stigmatized in formal writing, not in order to have it removed, but in the other direction of not abbreviating. So the stigma strength is "do not" < "don't" << "dont" – Mitch Jul 6 '18 at 15:16
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Perhaps in some future time, as the language and usage evolves around the people and cultures that use it, "dont" and "U" may become acceptable (or even normal) replacements for "don't" and "you".

In the meantime, "don't" is not a word by itself, but a contraction of "do not" or "does no", and the apostrophe highlights this fact. The apostrophe is not there to confuse it with another word, even if such a word "dont" don't exist.

  • The apostrophe is there so that people who follow the rules can judge and criticise those who don't. No other reason. – Colin Fine Jul 6 '18 at 10:07
  • I kind of agree with Colin to an extent. Standardization of spelling does not have a very long tradition; perhaps in my lifetime, and certainly in my grandmother's there were people alive who spelled phonetically and that was okay. I am a big believer that language should evolve. I no longer use the apostrophe in don't except for business emails or things like resumes. – Jeff Jul 6 '18 at 10:18
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    And, by the way, even in cases where there is genuinely a potential ambiguity (such as were vs we're and its vs it's), instances of genuine ambiguity are exceedingly rare. – Colin Fine Jul 6 '18 at 10:36
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    Cant and wont would be different words without the apostrophe; would it really be less confusing to include it there but omit it in *dont? – Tim Lymington Jul 6 '18 at 12:26
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    You mention that don’t “isn’t a word by itself, but a contraction of do not or does not”, but this is incorrect on two counts. The first and more obvious error is that does not has its own contraction in doesn’t; don’t can never be read as does not. The second and less obvious error is that negative contracted auxiliaries actually do behave like integral words in their own right, not as mere elisions: they are subject to inversion in questions like Don’t we know?. You cannot “expand” that the ungrammatical *Do not we know?. So they’re their own words. – tchrist Jul 6 '18 at 14:08

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