Everyone and Anyone


Legislative counsel should ensure that "everyone" and "anyone" are spelled as one word each when they mean "everybody" and "anybody" respectively.

The spellings "every one" and "any one" in this context are archaic, cause readability problems and may cause ambiguity.


The words "everyone" and "anyone" were originally two separate words each. However, through common use these expressions were "reanalysed" by English speakers as being only one word each. The two-word spellings were still common in the nineteenth century, but the one-word spellings became standard in the twentieth century,[1] with the result that "everyone" and "anyone" are now clearly distinct from the expressions spelled "every one" and "any one," which mean "each one" and "any given one" respectively.

One place where the old-style two-word spellings of "everyone" and "anyone" are preserved, however, is in Acts and Regulations. Both the former and the modern spellings of "anyone" are reasonably common there. "Everyone," however, is almost always spelled "every one"; this spelling is particularly common in provisions creating offences. It would appear that the spelling of "everyone" in Acts and Regulations has never been brought up to date since the first version of the Criminal Code[2] in Victorian times. ("Every one" is a defined term in the Criminal Code, but the definition also specifically includes "similar expressions.")

Spelling "everyone" and "anyone" as separate words may lead to readability problems. The modern expressions "every one" and "any one" have, besides different meanings, quite different pronunciations from "everyone" and "anyone," with the main stresses falling in quite different places — "every one" and "any one" as opposed to "everyone" and "anyone" — which may cause a reader to stumble over a passage that contains an unfamiliar spelling. These different stress patterns are no accident: main stress on the final element, as in "every one", is the typical English stress pattern when one word modifies another (e.g. "a green house" — a house that is green); main stress on the first element, as in "everyone", is the typical English stress pattern when two words combine to form a compound word (e.g. "a greenhouse" — a structure in which plants are grown).

Even the most distinguished scholars of criminal law seem to find the archaic spelling "every one" difficult, with one leading textbook misquoting Criminal Code provisions by using the spelling "everyone" in places.[3] There have been judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada in which judges have used the spelling "everyone" in their paraphrases of provisions that actually use the spelling "every one."[4]

In the 1980s the Law Reform Commission of Canada proposed a substantial rewrite of the Code.[5] Among its goals, "[i]n style the new Code aims to be intelligible to all Canadians. It is drafted in a straightforward manner, minimizing the use of technical terms…"[6] One way it applied these basic drafting principles was by using the spelling "everyone" throughout.[7]

Besides possible readability problems, spelling "everyone" and "anyone" the same way as "every one" and "any one" may also lead to ambiguity, as those spellings have a different meaning in modern English from "everyone" and "anyone".