Tuesday, July 10, 2012


To contract or not, that is the question. In business and non-fiction writing, most is done without using contractions. Formal English, proper English. But what about fiction writing?

I find myself writing without contractions and I think that is due to my years of business communications and non-fiction freelance writing. But for the most part, we don't talk in formal English, we use contractions.

So I find myself going back and editing my dialogue, putting in the most common contractions. That's not to say I change them all. Sometimes you need to understand a statement is being made by your character. Other times you may have a character that uses formal English for various reasons. It's part of their character.

Here is a quote from the Tameri Guide for Writers :
A verb contraction shortens a verb or verb phrase, matching informal English speech. Contractions join with verbs or pronouns. Avoiding contractions when writing fiction results in stilted dialog, while using too many reduces the effectiveness of writing.  
Ain’t is never the contraction for “am not” or “is not.” While some defend the use of ain't for “am not” as no more irregular than won’t for “will not,” no authority seems to accept this argument.
What about your writing? How do you use contractions... or not?


  1. I use contractions when I feel that would be natural for the character (which is most of the time, for my characters). It annoys me, a bit, when I'm reading dialogue spoken by the average Jane or Joe and common contractions aren't. Aren't contracted, that is. :-)
    Some Dark Romantic

  2. I blog more than write so I freely use contractions. The style is more casual in that environment. However, when it comes to academic papers and whatnot, I don't use them at all.

  3. I use contractions because I write informal dialogue. I agree that it behooves one to occasionally write out the contracted word pair instead, for emphasis and characterization.

    Snappy write, Donna! Interesting question. P.S. Posts are swimmin' inna triberr stream..:)


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