Monday, August 22, 2011

Contractions R Us

I received a crit once where I was told my use of contractions was not consistent.  I've been thinking a lot about this comment.  Yea, it was only one person but I want to make sure I get this right. 

In my manuscript I have a character that doesn't always use contractions.  This is not her native language and she does have a little more of a formal lilt to her speaking.  Also there are times when I might have used a contraction but didn't for the sake of emphasis.

"I won't do that."

VS

"I will not do that." 

Do you see a difference?  I try to keep them consistent within those parameters though. 

So the question I have for everyone is:  If you were to read this would the use of or lack of contractions bother you?  I'm very curious about how other writers feel about this. 

8 comments:

  1. I think some of it has to do with the style of book and the voice in which it is being told. If it's more of a relaxed, contemporary style, then contractions work better. If it is in an earlier time period, or maybe even a fantasy world, then I would think that not including them would fit. A good way to see what works best is to read the sentence outloud and listen if it is awkward or not.

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  2. I'd have to see a more extended example, but *I* don't even use contractions consistently. I think it depends upon meaning.

    For example, speaking casually I'll use 'don't.'
    If I'm trying to put emphasis or speaking formally I will use 'do not' in many cases - but not always - depends on the rhythm of the sentence, the audience, etc etc.

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  3. Ruth, thanks, It all sounded good to me but if it doesn't sound good to the reader then I'm in trouble.

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  4. Jill, I think some inconsistencies are more like real life, but I've often heard writing should take on the illusion of real life but not mimic it exactly.

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  5. In dialogue it all goes with voice. I think the native/non native thing is on target, too. Kasia's native, but her parents were not, so she probably picked up their speech patterns, etc. and rarely uses contractions.

    In narrative I try to find a balance. I don't want a paragraph riddled with contractions - it looks messy, imo. There's usually a good rhythm to be found in choosing the full words/contactions.

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  6. Thanks Tara, I think that's the clincher. If I make sure it all is part of the voice it will seem natural.

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  7. Short and sweet, thanks Widdershins.

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