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."


"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. 


  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.

  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.

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

  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.

  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.

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

  7. Short and sweet, thanks Widdershins.