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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Q4U: Contractions

Do you use contractions when you write?

Is there a time when contractions don't work?

Do you notice if authors you read do, or do not, use contractions in their work?

I ask because I've recently decided to abandon a series all because of contractions. The number of times I've stopped reading a series can be counted on one hand. Even when I don't love the story, I finish because I want to know the ending.

This series... I can't. The author won't use contractions and I find myself reaching for the red pen every few sentences. It's bounces me out of the narrative because the book reads like an outline, not a story.

I'm not sure how this one made it past the editor. I even checked the cover to see when the book was published. The editing style is consistent with science fiction from the 70s or 80s. Nope. The book was published just a few years ago.

The take away lesson is that you need to polish your final draft. No one else is going to do it for you. And even if the agent smiles and nods it doesn't mean the readers will forgive you for butchering a promising idea.

On an Amazon recommendation I'm going to try and find Old Man' War by Scalzi to replace this rough draft series.

Photo is copyright to and courtesy of either Michelle at (aka Lady Glamis) or Amy Laurens. The pen is Michelle's, Amy bought it for her. The photo was taken at Michelle's house (or nearby). But I'm not sure whose camera was used. I add this just for accuracy because The Inky One (O'Beloved Twin) was hasslin' me about accuracy.


  1. I think this might have something to do with my K-12 education. I had one of those grammar teachers who did not want to see ANY contractions. I had it burned into my skull that using contractions whenever possible was just as bad as marrying your first cousin. :)

    Or more to the point she felt that contractions uglified or cheapened what should have been beautiful and fluid text. They were SLANG (other word for a horrible incurable disease in her mind).

    Heh, she was a funny lady. :)

    As a result, I think, speak, and write without too many contractions. I mean I DO use them, but there are times when the text just sounds better or more natural in my head without then. <- That's why I really don't notice if a writer refuses to use them. In some cases, the text feels smoother in my head if it isn't constantly chopped up by contractions.

  2. I use contractions all the time. My POV character is a teenager and it wouldn't be in her voice if there weren't contractions.

  3. I doubt I could get through anything that doesn't use *some* contractions...they're a natural part of speech, and keep it from sounding stilted (ie, if I'd used they are above, it sounds stiff and formal).

    This is one of those things I go by "feel" on in my own writing...for more formal parts of speech, I don't use them. When the situation (or character) calls for more casual speech, I do. It's all part of the flow...

  4. Whether I do and how much depends on the novel, time period and character. I prefer to use them when it feels natural in dialogue or thought. But too many can feel too casual, which generally isn't what I'm going for.

  5. I think some writers choose to use contractions or not use them based on whether they are trying to make the character and/or narrator appear the right or left brained sort.

    In any case, if you choose lots of contractions or none you need to be sure it 'works' for the reader. Looks like in this case it didn't.

  6. I hardly use contractions in my narrative will use it in my dialogue, but possibly not enough. If anything my first drafts are usually too long winded and could use a few contractions.
    If I had a narrator that would naturally speak with contractions then I would. Good point to raise.

  7. Catherine - I think this author had that teacher.

    I think, overall, that you're right. It has to fit the story. In this case the characters were using slang and contractions when they spoke, but the narration lacked contractions. It bothered me enough that I noticed, and that's not a good thing.

  8. Oi! Just because it's your dear twinny's photo doesn't mean you can get away without crediting! :P *pokes you* *hacks into your code to add photo credits*

    Nonetheless, good post :D Sometime a lack of contractions feels right, but I agree with you - if it's done all the time it sounds stilted and blech o.0

  9. Inky- Glam sent it to me with permission to use! I thought she'd taken the photo. It's her pen, and her desk after all :P

    I mean, minus the fact that you bought the pen for her and everything... is this the pic you took or did she take it? I've been using it as stock for the blog.

    *feels guilty*

    I'll go credit it. :P

  10. ROFL! You're probably right, it probably IS one Glam took. I took a few, she took a few... Who knows. You know I don't really care, I was just being smart :P ;) :D


    If you need any more stock photos, you're welcome to rummage through my archives any time ;)