Monday, September 6, 2010
Contractions – Go with the Flow
We use contractions. A contraction is two words turned into one. For example: ‘can not’ becomes can’t; ‘do not’ becomes don’t; ‘you are’ becomes you’re.
Written contractions work because they reflect speech which is the most common way we communicate with each other. It’s a natural sound we hear every day and so we’re comfortable with the shortened rhythms. When we write like we speak, we give the reader a familiar ground to visit our stories. They aren’t distracted by the writing.
If we decide to write every word in full, then our writing begins to sound stilted. We force the readers to stumble or pause because it’s not a familiar rhythm. Because of this the piece often gains an air of pompousness.
If you don’t want a natural flow to your writing, or you want to achieve a certain level of formality, then go for it. The full words work well in any formal document. You could have a character who speaks without contractions, but they will sound robotic – much like Data in the Star Trek Next Gen series. Sometimes it works, but you’ll find mostly it doesn’t.
Do you use all the common contractions all of the time? Do you mix it up? Or do you think too many contractions make a piece too informal?