by Kathleen Watson (used with permission)
I’ve found myself pausing lately when I’m about to write anytime … or should it be any time? Which is it: one word or two?
As is sometimes the case with grammar, our choices are not easy or clear. I’ve learned from my online search that most sources say anytime and any time are not necessarily interchangeable; anytime is acceptable in one context, but any time is more often preferred.
Always my first choice, The Associated Press Stylebook doesn’t specifically list anytime, but it does cite anyone vs. any one as a similar example:
Anyone may attend the class.
Anyone is indefinite; it implies any and all people may attend the class.
You may check out any one of the books on the table.
Any one is definite; it implies a limit, a specific thing: one book from the selection.
Anyone (indefinite) who attends the class may borrow any one (specific) of the books on the table.
If anyone (indefinite) wants to ride along, pick any one (specific) of the bikes in the rack.
Getting back to anytime, the same general guideline applies:
anytime is indefinite; it implies at any time whatsoever
We’ll leave for lunch anytime you choose.
My new truck will tackle rough roads anytime, anywhere.
Call me anytime.
any time can imply something specific or an amount of time:
Did you call me any time last week?
Attendance fell any time a holiday created a conflict.
Did you talk with her any time after the accident?
I don’t have any time to mow the lawn this weekend.
Don’t waste any time trying to influence the outcome.
If you find any time to make brownies, please bring them to the picnic.
Some online sources claim that the two-word any time is always the safer choice if you’re writing for school, for work, or in any formal context.
I predict that we’ll see greater use of the one-word anytime. Life continues to get more casual, from attire, to the informal way we address people, to the way we use language. As our culture evolves, grammar tends to evolve with it.
For other confusing words that start with the letter a, check out my A-Word post from July 2015.
And please let me know when you have specific questions. Use the comment section below or send me an email anytime . . . at any time you choose!
Kathleen Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. She has for nearly three decades been helping individuals and organizations craft messages that inform, convince and inspire.
Clear communication is at the heart of success in nearly every field and endeavor. Kathy encourages and supports those who want to fine-tune their writing and speaking skills. Her Grammar for People who Hate Rules, a compilation of the killer tips she has been sharing for years, will be available soon. Her email is email@example.com
For a three-page list of more examples, request One Word or Two at firstname.lastname@example.org.