When is the best time to use contractions?

Okay, first things first. If you’ve read any of my post you know…

I’m no expert. 

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But recently a fellow writer Jena C. Henry, be sure and hop over and check out her blog, posed a question.

When is the best time to use contractions? 

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I, in turn, agreed to toss the question out to my readers.

However, as this is my blog, here are my thoughts.

No rule says we must use contractions. I don’t want my writing to sound as if I’ve got a stick up my ass. Unless of course one of my characters is actually walking around with a stick, well you know.  To me, writing with contractions makes the story and dialog sound less stilted and more inviting.

However, I don’t think a contraction is warranted in every instant. In other words, I believe this is just one of the many tools in a writer’s arsenal. Using them should be part of a writer’s personal preference or style. There are times when using a contraction can sound confusing and may take an extra beat for the reader to figure out what is happening. Any doubt- write it out. Remember, a good rule of thumb is to “write like you talk.

Click here and grab this cheat sheet of Common Contractions.

Now Jena and I would like to hear your answers.

When should a contraction be used?

Do you use more, or less, contractions in your writing?

Do you think they are overused?

Should writers forgo them for a more formal style?

At the bottom of this post, I’ve linked a few articles with a bit more authority on the subject than me. So keep reading!

Leave me a comment – I love hearing from you!

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Keep reading!

Using Contractions Correctly

Contractions by Neal Whitman, read by Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl

Contractions List: When To Use and When To Avoid by

25 thoughts on “When is the best time to use contractions?

  1. I find it depends on the age and character, if I am writing in the voice of a child there are more. When used to help the reader distinguish the naive voice from the adult, to bring authenticity to the character if they are speaking in anger or at speed because of a situation, then I do. But like we change the shoe to suit the weather so we should alter our style. 🙄👏👏 nice post Jean.

    Like

  2. Yes, best to write as we speak or it can sound stilted. But to not contract can define a character or add emphasis.
    Think John McEnroe’s famous line: “You cannot be serious”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Jean, I have never really thought about this, but now I am. I guess I just write as I speak, no fancy stuff here. But now I will think about this and consider it when I am writing…… After pondering this, I am not sure I do use contractions when I speak. Maybe I am an “old school talker”.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I generally use contractions in writing as I would in speaking. If I wanted to emphasize something to a naughty child, I might say, “You should NOT do that!” opposed to “you shouldn’t do that,” however, there are two situations in which I become more aware of how I use contractions to best effect:

    1) Local or regional accents. How I use contractions (and general language) in everyday vernacular is different to how somebody from, say, Australia, would use it. In casual speech, my accent incorporates a sort of glottal stop to make “in the” become “in’t” (example, “put it in the bin” can become “put it in’t bin.”) Clearly, I wouldn’t use this language when writing from the perspective of a character lacking my accent. It’s slightly different from contractions, I know, but also I’ve recently been writing from the perspective of New Yorkers (circa 1940s) so I’ve been trying to incorporate more terminology/language from that era. No RP, for example, and different combinations of words may form different contractions.

    2) Robots! When I want a robot (android, whatever flavour they come in) to sound more mechanical and less human, I cut contractions completely. After all, it works for Data in Star Trek. 😀 This could also apply to aliens, or any individual to whom I want to give a feeling of “not from around here.”

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I write for kids and they use contractions a lot so I use them in dialogue to make it sound more natural. When the character’s English is their second language, I don´t use contractions. Of course, if the character is trying to make a point like, “I am so angry,” I spell it out.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thanks Jean! I agree with your thoughts and looking forward to learning more from other readers. Thanks for the shout out! I think there’s a difference In using “I’ve got to go now” and “gotta go now” so many things for writers to think about!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I never thought when and where I should use contractions. Though sometimes, I think to emphasize what I mean I will write, do not instead of don’t, somehow it sounds more powerful, ‘do not,’ at times carries more weight than, ‘don’t.’
    Right or wrong this is how my mind works.

    Liked by 2 people

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