1. Ghost Reflection
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    Ghost Reflection New Member

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    Contractions?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Ghost Reflection, Jul 28, 2016.

    I don't have a problem using them when a character is thinking or talking, but otherwise it doesn't right to use them, unless in casual context like now. I write in third person and there are times it sounds more natural to use them, however I feel like this is breaking a rule or it's not something a professional writer would do. Please share your thoughts with me on this. For some reason it is really tripping me up. I’ve seen some other threads on this, but I was wondering if anyone would like to go more in depth about it and explain more about the tone it sets.
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Formal academic writing doesn't use contractions, so if you're writing fiction in a voice that is reminiscent of formal academic writing, I'd avoid contractions.

    Otherwise? If the contractions fit your voice? There's really no rule against using contractions in fiction or any other creative writing.
     
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  3. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I initially read this as 'contradictions', and then when I read it properly I had to go and look up what the word means.

    I use contractions all the time, in both dialogue and narrative. I write in 1st person, but I don't think this makes a difference.

    I would never dream of writing, "There was something odd about the house. I did not like it one bit. It was not only the fact that it was reportedly haunted that scared me. I tried the door but it would not open..."

    No, never. It would be, "There was something odd about the house. I didn't like it one bit. It wasn't just the fact that it was reportedly haunted that scared me. I tried the door but it wouldn't open."

    I'd find if very odd reading the former.
     
  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's a choice for me, and it depends on the tone of the story I'm writing. My main novel does not use contractions, mostly because I'm aiming for a more formal, almost bardic tone in it. Most of my short stories use contractions even though I'm using close third-person narration. Different techniques for different tones for different stories.
     
  5. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe I just haven't noticed, or it's because of what I read, but text without contractions seems totally alien to me. I don't think I've ever read anything that doesn't use contractions.

    I mean seriously, how often do you see 'I am' rather than 'I'm'... in anything?
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2016
  6. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    Granted not often, but I reckon it could have its uses. Firstly as a character trait of someone a little quirky and meticulous about clarity. Secondly I recall my French teacher spoke without using contractions—all words in English very measured and safe. Lastly, maybe the other way round—when speaking to someone with limited English, wouldn't we naturally mete out our words in a simple and less broken manner?
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2016
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  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say you just haven't noticed or it's because of what you read.

    ETA: Will this work?

    Nope.

    Don't know how to embed the chart, but check out https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=I+am%2CI%27m&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2CI%20am%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2CI%20%27m%3B%2Cc0 (you may need to click "search lots of books" to get the chart)
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2016
  8. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    IMO not using contractions sounds more emphatic, probably because when I was being scolded as a kid contractions were not used.
     
  9. Laurin Kelly
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    Laurin Kelly Active Member

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    I write contemporary fiction and use lots of contractions, especially in dialogue. I think not using them would make my writing way to formal.
     
  10. Ghost Reflection
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    Ghost Reflection New Member

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    Thank you to everyone who has posted so far! Some very helpful and insightful points have been brought up. The main bulk of my writing has been academic. The weird thing is that when I'm writing, my thoughts will have contractions in them, but unless it is in character, it's a serious hang-up for me to write them. I do find that not using them can emphasize a point, and depending on the situation a character may or may not use them.

    BayView: That chart in amazing.
     
  11. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Let me make sure I'm understanding that chart. The usage of 'I'm' has been slowly creeping up on the formal 'I am' over the years, and is now more widely used? Well at least that backs me up then.

    Curiously, when you do a comparison for 'Isn't / Is not' the chart doesn't accept the contraction.
     
  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It backs you up with the idea that contractions are currently more popular. But it doesn't support the idea that you've never read a book that doesn't use contractions, unless you've read very few books.
     
  13. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Whenever I read a story that avoids contractions, it always sounds stiff, like it's the butler telling the story or some dusty old professor.

    Still, it could come down to a matter of taste. Some people are of a more formal bent and I can understand how they'd like a story served up on a formal dining table. For me, though, I always prefer eating with my fingers in front of the TV. :)
     
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  14. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    When I worked for a car rental agency back in the 70s, I had a number of regular customers who spoke limited English. I not only eliminated contractions, but fell (quite accidentally) into imitating their accents. They understood me perfectly and it actually helped me understand them, too. Another rental clerk once accused me of making fun of one of these customers, but since that particular customer always asked for me, I doubt he was insulted.
     
  15. Sack-a-Doo!
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    I've used this to show that a character was out of sync with the rest of the world. Of course, he was an alien, so how could he not be?
     
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  16. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Yes, I agree. I do this in normal speech, so I've used it in writing fiction, too. If contractions are the order of the day and suddenly there's a phrase where an contraction would obviously (and normally) be used, but it's spelled out... voilà! Emphasis.
     
  17. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course. I just meant it reassures me I'm writing in the more commonly used style for fiction.
     
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  18. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Exactly what I was going to say. And, generally, I don't enjoy contemporary fiction that tries to sound formal. Contractions all the way :)
     
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