Word Choice: Not vs. Knot
3-minute read

Word Choice: Not vs. Knot

Although ‘not’ and ‘knot’ sound the same, they have very different meanings. As a result, using the wrong word in your writing could leave your reader confused. Check out our tips below to avoid mistakes in your written work.

Not (A Word Used for Negations)

‘Not’ is an adverb that, when placed in front of another word or groups of words, negates what follows. This means we can use it to deny something:

I do not know the answer to your question.

Here, for instance, saying ‘I do not know’ is the opposite of saying ‘I do know’. And we can use ‘not’ like this in a variety of situations:

He has not done his homework.

The washing machine is not working.

You were told to not pick your nose.

I will do anything for love, but not that.

You are not as tall as I imagined.

In each of these examples, ‘not’ negates the word or words that follow.

‘Not’ is also a part of a lot of contractions in English. For example:

Isn’t = Is not

Doesn’t = Does not

Won’t = Will not

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Haven’t = Have not

As you can see, when ‘not’ is part of a contraction we replace the ‘o’ with an apostrophe. However, you should write these terms out in full in formal writing.

Knot (Join Made by Tying Two Threads Together)

Typically, the noun ‘knot’ refers to a join made by tying two threads such as string, rope, or wool together. For instance, we might say:

The sailor tied a knot at the end of the rope.

But ‘knot’ has several other meanings, too, including:

  • A tight mass of threads (e.g. The girl’s long hair was full of knots)
  • A knob formed on a tree trunk (e.g. The knots in the wood are distinctive)
  • A measurement of speed used by ships, aircraft, and the movement or water or air (e.g. One knot is equal to one nautical mile per hour)
  • A cluster of people or things (e.g. Tight knots of people gathered outside)

As a verb, however, ‘knot’ almost always means ‘fasten with a knot’:

He knotted his tie in front of the mirror.

Why are you knotting those pieces of rope together?

Whether you’re using it as a noun or a verb, this word is always spelled with a silent ‘k’ at the start. It is therefore pronounced as ‘not’, not ‘k-not’.

A knotted rope.
A knotted rope.
(Photo: moritz320)

Summary: Not or Knot?

When you are trying to work out which spelling to use, remember:

  • Not is an adverb used to negate something.
  • Knot can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it typically refers to a join made by tying two pieces of thread together or a tightly woven mass, but it has a few other meanings as well. As a verb, ‘knot’ means ‘fasten with a knot’.

The fact these words are so different should make it easier to tell them apart. The important thing to remember is that ‘not’ modifies other words by negating them.

For more help with your spelling and word choice, moreover, our proofreaders are available 24/7. Submit a free trial document today to find out more.

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