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  1. I do not eat fast food.
  2. I don't eat fast food.

What is the difference between them? In everyday speech, we use #2. Can't we use #2 in a formal writing at all? When we say #1, what is the difference compared to #2? Is #1 stronger in meaning than #2?

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  1. I do not eat fast food.
  2. I don't eat fast food.

What is the difference between them?
They mean the exact same in definition.

In everyday speech, we use #2. Can't we use #2 in a formal writing at all? I am hesitant to use contractions (Line 2) in any formal communication. I would not use them in a cover letter for a job or in an email to my boss. I would also not use them if communicating professionally for business or personal reasons. It is not grammatically incorrect, but does read better to certain people. I do not think anyone would view you negatively using option 1 in any scenario. It sounds a little strange in speech to a native speaker, but the expression is identical.

When we say #1, what is the difference compared to #2? Is #1 stronger in meaning than #2?
Back to the response of the first question. By definition Don't and Do not mean the same thing. Contractions shorten the length of the word/phrase but do not change emphasis or meaning.

However, when looking at everyday application of these phrasings in natural conversation I believe this changes. "I don't do that." "I don't smoke cigarettes." "I don't eat meat." I think all hold less seriousness then the non contracted version. "I do not smoke cigarettes." "I do not eat meat." Part of this could certainly be my natural speech pace/thinking pace places an emphasis on not. Since I am contradicting the verb immediately. "I do NOT eat meat." "I do NOT like you." It feels unnatural to place emphasis anywhere else in the sentence. There is such a natural instinct to expect "don't" that when "do not" is used it holds more seriousness. The speaker or the writer wants to make sure I understand that they "Do NOT".

  • Do you think "I do not eat fast food" in an informal context could have a stronger meaning than using "don't"? Asking as a (presumably) fellow native speaker, but it got me thinking and it seems to me that deliberately saying "do not" says something specific here. – seventyeightist May 21 at 19:42
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    I agree. "I don't do that." "I don't smoke cigarettes." "I don't eat meat." I think all hold less seriousness then the non contracted version. "I do not smoke cigarettes." "I do not eat meat." Part of this could certainly be my natural speech pace/thinking pace places an emphasis on not. Since I am contradicting the verb immediately. "I do NOT eat meat." "I do NOT like you." It feels unnatural to place emphasis anywhere else in the sentence. – frathoss May 21 at 20:20
  • Sorry, I may have worded it unclearly but I'm agreeing with you (or vice versa): I "DO NOT" eat meat (or whatever) is stronger and more serious. – seventyeightist May 21 at 20:22
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    I misread. Edited to show agreement. – frathoss May 21 at 20:24
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    Could you consider adding this to your answer, as the OP asked "is #1 stronger in meaning than #2" in addition to whether they could use it in a formal setting? Could be useful information for future Googlers ;-) (I was hinting at it in my comment but didn't explicitly say it.. oops!) – seventyeightist May 21 at 20:28

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