Tip Tuesday — Contractions

When you are writing it is important that you pay close attention to your use of contractions. If you do not use them at all then you are running the risk of having your writing sound very formal and stiff.

Let’s try that again:

When you’re writing it’s important that you pay close attention to your use of contractions. If you don’t use them at all then you’re running the risk of having your writing sound very formal and stiff.

Doesn’t the second try sound much more conversational? Contractions are one of the things that can help set the tone of your writing. If you are writing in a very formal manner and tone, whether seriously or as a means of satire, then you will want to make sure that you aren’t using contractions. But if your piece is more casual in tone, then you will want to use contractions more. There are a couple of cases where this is key.

1. First person narrative. With first person POV the whole book is basically a running thought/dialogue of the character. So if they are the type that would be very formal, you can use the lack of contractions to help develop the character AND set the tone. But if they are a regular person (especially a teen) then you’ll want to use contractions pretty much all the time.
2. Dialogue. When we talk, we almost always use contractions. Unless giving a formal speech or if it’s a particular speech pattern to a particular person. One of the biggest mistakes I see is lack of contractions in dialogue. It makes it seem fake and not very believable.

Remember, not using contraction doesn’t make your writing better; it just makes it more formal.

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