Answer 4 Questions To Use Contractions the Right Way

A picture of four question marks, denoting the four questions to ask before using contractions.Photo by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels

Established writers advise you to use contractions in your articles.

Contractions are the shortened form of a combination of words. They’re colloquial and are often used with questions, negations, and common verbs. You can form contractions by omitting certain alphabets and replacing them with an apostrophe.
E.g., I am = I’m, You are = You’re, and Let us = Let’s.

I always used uncontracted words until Iunderstood how to use contractions properly. Earlier, when I didn’t use contractions, my essays were less engaging, even though they were grammatically correct. The tone and style of the articles were monotonous and sounded more like a report.

Though there are only a few strict grammar rules on the application of contractions, answering these fundamental questions will help you use contractions properly to write good articles.

Knowing the format of your article is crucial to recognize when to use contractions.

People use contractions to form colloquial-sounding sentences. It’s more frequently used in some dialects. For example, in Texas and Georgia, some try to use 4-word contractions such as you’dn’t’ve (you would not have) or y’all’ll’ve (you all will have) in their sentences.

It’s standard practice to use contractions in informal write-ups. You typically use contractions in your emails, messages, blog posts, or postcards. You can use them to have a conversational tone and build a connection with your readers.

However, if you’re writing a more formal piece, it’s considered inappropriate to use contractions. Academic papers, research articles, and legal documents mandate you to not use contractions, except in cases like 5 o’clock. As always, there are some exceptions, and you can still use common contractions in formal letters. It depends on your profession, audience, institution, or the context of the article. But the general advice is to avoid them.

Consider these examples:

  • She’s playing with my daughter.= She is playing with my daughter.
  • She’s to go to the office tomorrow. = She has to go to the office tomorrow.

Both these sentences are grammatically correct. There’s no other way to interpret the sentences’ meanings. We combine verbs such as is and has with the subject to form contractions.

But consider this sentence: She’s a mother too.

Does this sentence mean “She is a mother too” or “She has a mother too?”

It’s difficult to guess without context. Isn’t it?

Apply contractions only in well-defined contexts. Try to avoid them in ambiguous sentences.

For example, sometimes, you may say something like, “I am not going to the mall today.” Such sentences are ideal candidates for contractions.

You can rewrite the above sentence in two ways:

  • You’re not going to the mall today.
  • You aren’t going to the mall today.

Grammatically, you can use both forms. Yet, you can select the better-sounding contraction to make your point by following these guidelines:

  • If you want to emphasize the subject’s inability, rather than the inability itself, combine the verb with the word ‘not.’
    The suitable contraction: You aren’t going to the mall today. It highlights that you can’t go to the mall today, but someone else can.
  • If you want to emphasize the inability to perform a task, rather than the person who’s incapable of performing the task, combine the subject and the associated verb. Accentuate the word ‘not’ here.
    The suitable contraction: You’re not going to the mall today. It highlights your powerlessness to go to the mall today, but you can perhaps go somewhere else.

For the sake of consistency, stick to one writing style. If you wish to use contractions in your write-ups, then use them throughout your article. And if you prefer not to use contractions, then don’t use them at all. Mixing them up makes your work look sloppy.

For example:

  • Valid:I don’t think we’re going to the mall.” or “ I do not think we are going to the mall.”
  • Invalid: “I do not think we’re going to the mall.”

High-quality articles are grammatically strong. To write engaging articles, you should learn both fundamental grammar rules and obscure rules. Contractions also fall under this category.

When using contractions in articles, you should remember some rules:

  • Even though there are some multiple-word contractions, they’re regional and colloquial. Refrain from using more than one contraction at a time.
    Invalid: “He’sn’t sleeping.”
    Valid: “He isn’t sleeping.” or “He’s not sleeping.”
    You can also say: “I don’t think we’re going to the mall.” This is allowed because the contractions are in different positions.
  • Avoid ending sentences with contractions.
    Valid: Are we going to the mall? — No, I don’t think we are.
    Invalid: Are we going to the mall? — No, I don’t think we’re.

Contractions are so common that most people don’t even realize using them. However, if you’re a new writer or your first language isn’t English, it tends to be confusing.

It’s crucial to understand how to use contractions to write quality articles. It’s even more important to know how not to use them. Misusing contractions can distract your readers.

Though these aren’t strict rules, they are good guidelines to understand the use of contractions. Practice more and master the use of contractions to improve your writing quickly.

To recap:

  • Know your article format. If it’s an informal piece, feel free to use contractions, else try to avoid them.
  • Apply contractions only if your sentence maintains its meaning. If there’s a lack of clarity, avoid using them.
  • Understand the intent of your sentence. Know the emphasis point, and use contractions accordingly.
  • Use contractions consistently.
  • Avoid ending your sentences with contractions.
  • Don’t use more than one contraction at a time.

Now let’s write some engaging articles. Happy writing!

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