RSS Feed Print
Contractions, Contractions, Contractions!!!
Kay P
Posted: Monday, October 15, 2012 10:24 PM
Joined: 10/11/2012
Posts: 13

Hi everyone. I'm new here and I'm still learning how to navigate through Book Country. I read somewhere (maybe someones comment or a link to another article) about avoiding contractions. They said not to use them in your story.

Well, I have a problem with that. I can understand if contractions are not supposed to be used while narrating the story, but what about the dialogue??

For example, my story focuses around young adults. Teens don't even like to write or speak proper English and so using contractions is basically their attempt at being proper (the shortcut way).

Also, a lot of of my townsfolk didn't have the ability to finish their schooling, so I also want to show that off by using dialects and contractions (I want the old people to kind of slur and run their words together...while still being understandable of course). I think that it will make the characters more believable.

Come to think of it I don't remember any of the YA books I read  to use contractions.

What do you suggests? To Do or not To DO?

Timothy Maguire
Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 5:31 PM
Joined: 8/13/2011
Posts: 272

In general, I find contractions work very well when used in dialogue. What doesn't work in prose does fit very well in speech. If you sit down and rewrite any dialogue samples without any contractions, it quickly becomes really stilted (you can test this quite easily). As a general rule of thumb, contractions should almost always be in dialogue (unless it's part of the character's voice, of course).

Contractions shouldn't really be part of the prose unless you're showcasing your characters' thoughts. If you're writing something like: 'Alex thought, wibble's a good word', then you'll be better served writing your version in contractions, ie: wibble's a good word rather than wibble is a good word. This makes it seem a little more realistic.

In short, I find contractions work best when it's the character's own voice, not when it's their actions. You could write solidly in contractions, but it would work best if your character was directly narrating what was happening to him.
LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 9:40 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662

I use contractions in the bulk of my prose, but have never been told no to. My WIP is written in third person limited, so I jump viewpoints. The reason why I use contractions is because I have a character who doesn't. When I write from his POV, I don't use contractions at all. (He thinks they are a sign of laziness.)

There is another piece of advice I've heard that makes not writing with contractions a problem. Words should flow when you read them aloud in narrative and dialogue. When  you don't use contractions, it can come across stilted sounding. Honestly, I think it's a personal choice. I'm not distracted by them unless you slip and do "your" and "you're." I've screwed up there before. 
Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 11:16 AM
Come to think of it I don't remember any of the YA books I read  to use contractions.

You made me curious. I went through my Kindle and my bookshelves, and you're right. I couldn't find any contractions in any of the YA I pulled. I guess it was so well done, we never noticed??

Kay P
Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 4:22 PM
Joined: 10/11/2012
Posts: 13

Thanks a bunch guys

@Timothy...Thanks for the great method. I tried my best not to use contractions in the plot, just the dialogue and thoughts. I will search and rewrite the thoughts of action w/out contractions.

@LeeAnna...That's exactly why I asked the question. Removing contractions makes the story sound very funny, and it is unrealistic. I haven't met anyone yet who speaks w/out it.

@Mari...Whatever comment or article I read used that as an example to stay away from contractions (YA books don't use contractions). I probably picked that only guideline out of everything they were saying just to see if I could prove them wrong and find something. No Luck yet.

I really appreciate the answer guys.

Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2013 11:25 AM
Joined: 11/21/2013
Posts: 7

Wow! I'm so glad I found this post. I've been going through my draft making contractions, because I'm in the habit of not using them. 


The rule of thumb to use them when using dialogue, quotes, and I suppose 1st POV makes perfect sense. 


I think it is reader personal preference, so there is no way to please everyone. But that dialogue rule of thumb is excellent. I'll start using that directly. 


Now if I can only learn about another 100 rules of thumb, I'll be ready to write.

--edited by Bo on 11/21/2013, 11:28 AM--


Jump to different Forum...