1. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Contractions

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by doggiedude, Sep 18, 2016.

    This is probably going to be another one of those questions where there is no correct answer.

    I joined a few writing groups on Facebook & ran across someone asking for people to review her query. There were several places where she skipped using a contraction (she would instead of she'd or he had instead of he'd.)
    I pointed this out & she said, "I was told not use contractions in a query."
    To me, that sounded like another piece of random bad advice someone ran across on the internet but another poster agreed.
    I thought by not using the contractions, it looked unprofessional. I know when I'm typing out a story, I have a habit of not using them until I go back to edit.

    Any opinions?
     
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  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I see contractions is a bit too casual, so I agree with her. While not wrong, I wouldn't use contractions for queries.
     
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  3. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unprofessional? My feelings are the exact opposite. It is the use of contractions that make formal writing look unprofessional, not the other way round. At least in my opinion.

    I use contractions all the time in my fiction, but that's because I write with a first-person voice and that's how my character talks. In formal letter writing, however, I think contractions should be avoided.

    I think this is the first time I've ever heard anyone say they thought not using contractions looked unprofessional :meh:
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2016
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  4. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I try like hell to avoid using them in stories, only allowing them in dialogue. Not sure why, maybe cause they make one look lazy? IDK (Shrugs) :supergrin:
     
  5. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    My general rule of thumb is that professional/academic writing equals no contractions.

    That said, I view a query as relatively formal. When I write my query letter, I will probably not use contractions unless I find compelling advice otherwise.
     
  6. Earp
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    Earp Active Member

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    It's difficult to imagine any publisher rejecting your query because you didn't use contractions, so I would say no.
     
  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    There's no such rule. Contractions aren't unprofessional and although queries are business letters, it's a creative business you're looking for a partnership in. The last thing you want to do is make your prose sound stilted and formal, which avoiding contractions often does.

    I just had a look through my query folder. Not only did I use plenty of contractions, but so did the agents when they responded to me. :)
     
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  8. Pauline
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    Pauline Member

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    A really simple way to decide this is to read a bunch of successful queries. Pretty sure they'll all have contractions
     
  9. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Good point. I just looked at the first five 'wins' on QueryShark, and four of them had contractions. The fifth only had two places where one could've been used.
     
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  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'd think the last thing you would want to convey in a query letter is a stiff, artificial formality. Obviously you don't want to resort to over-familiarity, slang or expressions that aren't universally acceptable. But contractions like don't, can't, haven't, won't? These are perfectly acceptable—pretty much invisible, actually. However, the reverse can call attention to itself. If you choose do not, can not, have not, will not in every instance, you will probably come across as an uptight writer. Which, if you're a novelist, doesn't bode well. (Which, if you are a novelist, does not bode well.)

    In a query letter, you're trying to sell your product. It doesn't help to make your writing style appear to be awkward and out of date. Forget what 'formal' writing is, and just do your best to sell your product, person-to-person. While a query is a business letter (as @Tenderiser pointed out) it's also written to a specific person. Addressing them as 'Hi there!' or 'Hey, dude' is probably not a good plan, but a contraction or two will make the letter sound conversational, without making you seem to be a prat. Pretend you're speaking to them face-to-face at a pitch conference. I imagine you'd use a contraction or two. It's a balancing act.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2016
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  11. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's generally a good idea for a query to have a bit of voice, and the voice should reflect the story. So if your story is about an uptight academic, it might make sense to avoid contractions, just like it might make sense for a story about a slang-loving teen to have a more casual, relaxed query. (Don't go too far with that, but... a bit of spice is always nice!)
     
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  12. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    Since when can't you use contractions? Without them things might seem more stiff. I wouldn't say that's more professional or even the right way to write.
     
  13. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    Query letters are a different animal, but contractions are generally frowned upon in academic writing. They want stiffness. I had a professor mark me off on a paper written in APA for using a couple of them. I'm not sure that there are any rules about them in the APA or MLA manual. I just know what I've experienced in academic writing.
     
  14. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    That's true, but a query letter isn't academic. It's a business letter in a creative industry. I use contractions in my correspondence at work, and so does pretty much everyone I deal with professionally.
     
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  15. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    Absolutely. I use them in everything unless I know specifically not to. And the only writing that I've ever done which specifically doesn't want them is academic. So I suppose they are the outliers.
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Contractions are definitely less formal than the lack of them. That's not to say that you shouldn't use them in a query letter--I don't think that a query letter is that formal. But I wouldn't regard the lack of them as unprofessional, I would regard it as...hm. Charmless?
     

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