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    #1

    Contractions are no easy

    This topic is about contractions like I’m, she’s, it’s, you’re, he’ll, I’ve, I’d, can’t, don’t, etc.
    Long time ago, I learned the following rule about contractions: They are alright but in speech ONLY. They are not advisable in writing (except of direct speech).
    So, you can say, “I’m happy”. But in writing it should be: “I am happy”.
    Though, it is OK with direct speech in writing: He said, “I’m happy”.
    This rule is applicable only for formal writing. (But honestly, I do not know what formal writing is).
    Later I realized that people started using contractions in writing more and more often. Now people criticize me for not using contractions in writing.
    So my question is: “Is that wrong if I never use contractions in writing?”
    In e-mails? In published fiction?
    I admit only two exceptions: direct speech and “let’s” vs “let us”. For example, “Let’s go (somewhere)”. Otherwise it cannot be confused with “Let us go (free)”.
    Thank you.

  1. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Contractions are no easy

    Quote Originally Posted by sbrodsky View Post
    This topic is about contractions like I’m, she’s, it’s, you’re, he’ll, I’ve, I’d, can’t, don’t, etc.
    Long time ago, I learned the following rule about contractions: They are alright but in speech ONLY. They are not advisable in writing (except of direct speech).
    So, you can say, “I’m happy”. But in writing it should be: “I am happy”.
    Though, it is OK with direct speech in writing: He said, “I’m happy”.
    This rule is applicable only for formal writing. (But honestly, I do not know what formal writing is).
    Later I realized that people started using contractions in writing more and more often. Now people criticize me for not using contractions in writing.
    So my question is: “Is that wrong if I never use contractions in writing?”
    In e-mails? In published fiction?
    I admit only two exceptions: direct speech and “let’s” vs “let us”. For example, “Let’s go (somewhere)”. Otherwise it cannot be confused with “Let us go (free)”.
    Thank you.
    I would agree with them that contractions should probably be avoided in "formal writing", but by that I understand such things as formal business letters and the like. In published fiction, pretty much anything is acceptable!

    In a business letter, it's much better to write, for example "I would be very grateful if you would reply as soon as possible", not "I'd be very grateful if you'd reply as soon as possible".

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    #3

    Re: Contractions are no easy

    But you did not answer my question...
    Thank you anyway.
    Besides:
    Do you think that formal business letter is the only example of formal writing?
    I do not think so.
    Why do you think that published book is not considered as formal writing? It is supposed to be read by thousand people.
    By the way, how about this forum?
    Again, I thank you for the discussion.
    Last edited by sbrodsky; 17-Jul-2010 at 22:05.

  2. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Contractions are no easy

    Quote Originally Posted by sbrodsky View Post
    But you did not answer my question...
    Thank you anyway.
    Is it wrong to never use contractions when writing? No. It's fine. If that's what you choose to do, then that's up to you. The only thing I would say is that using contractions does show perhaps a greater understanding of the language and is certainly more colloquial.

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    #5

    Re: Contractions are no easy

    Quote Originally Posted by sbrodsky View Post
    This topic is about contractions like I’m, she’s, it’s, you’re, he’ll, I’ve, I’d, can’t, don’t, etc.
    Long time ago, I learned the following rule about contractions: They are alright but in speech ONLY. They are not advisable in writing (except of direct speech).
    So, you can say, “I’m happy”. But in writing it should be: “I am happy”.
    Though, it is OK with direct speech in writing: He said, “I’m happy”.
    This rule is applicable only for formal writing. (But honestly, I do not know what formal writing is).
    Later I realized that people started using contractions in writing more and more often. Now people criticize me for not using contractions in writing.
    So my question is: “Is that wrong if I never use contractions in writing?”
    In e-mails? In published fiction?
    I admit only two exceptions: direct speech and “let’s” vs “let us”. For example, “Let’s go (somewhere)”. Otherwise it cannot be confused with “Let us go (free)”.
    Thank you.
    ********** NOT A TEACHER **********

    Hello, Sbrodsky.

    (1) You have asked a great question: What is formal writing?

    (2) Of course, I do not have an answer.

    (3) But I think that everyone knows in his/her heart when something

    is formal -- no matter what language s/he is using.

    (4) For example, if you are writing a letter to a university because

    you want to study there, I think that contractions would show

    disrespect.

    (5) Let's keep contractions for friendly letters and dialogue (because

    it supposedly reflects conversation). Otherwise, let's avoid

    contractions. We should preserve the dignity of the language.

    Thank you

    P. S. Congratulations on understanding the difference between

    let's and let us. I have no doubt that many younger speakers

    here in my country could not explain the difference.

  3. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Contractions are no easy

    Quote Originally Posted by sbrodsky View Post
    But you did not answer my question...
    Thank you anyway.
    Besides:
    Do you think that formal business letter is the only example of formal writing?
    I do not think so.
    Why do you think that published book is not considered as formal writing? It is supposed to be read by thousand people.
    By the way, how about this forum?
    Again, I thank you for the discussion.
    Ah, you added some questions!

    I only gave a business letter as an example of formal writing. I would agree with the previous poster that I don't think there is a definition of "formal writing" as such. Situations dictate whether you write formally or informally, depending on who you're writing to/for, how well you know them, what the purpose of the writing is etc.

    The number of people who are going to read something doesn't necessarily dictate whether or not it is formal, surely?!

    The use of contractions on this forum is absolutely fine, provided they're used correctly. As you can see, I use them pretty regularly, and I'll continue to do so. The only time I reply using very few contractions is if it's clear from the original post that the poster has a low level of English. If I'm trying to explain something to a beginner, I'd use the full version of verbs as I wouldn't necessarily expect them to have reached the stage of using/understanding contractions yet.
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 17-Jul-2010 at 22:35. Reason: Typo

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    #7

    Re: Contractions are no easy

    I agree with you, emsr2d2. But only partially.
    If you want to use contractions on this forum, it is fine.
    But using or not using contractions is not about the level of the poster. Contractions for high level of English? Then you have to use "u" instead of "you", "2" as "two", etc. Why not? People with high level of English will understand.
    So, I think that our discussion is not about understanding. It is about stile of writing.
    Thank you.

  4. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Contractions are no easy

    Quote Originally Posted by sbrodsky View Post
    I agree with you, emsr2d2. But only partially.
    If you want to use contractions on this forum, it is fine.
    But using or not using contractions is not about the level of the poster. Contractions for high level of English? Then you have to use "u" instead of "you", "2" as "two", etc. Why not? People with high level of English will understand.
    So, I think that our discussion is not about understanding. It is about stile of writing.
    Thank you.
    I'm sorry but I have to disagree with your specific example. Using "u" instead of "you" is not my idea of a contraction. It's relatively new "textspeak" and as far as I'm aware, developed as a way of saving on the number of characters in a text message. It's an abbreviation, yes, but I don't class it as a contraction. Things like "2moro" for "tomorrow" are the same.

    As far as the level of English is concerned, I stick with my original point. If I was writing to a beginner, I would be careful to use, for example "I would", not "I'd", "You will", not "You'll".

    My English students in Spain are of various levels and when we do reading comprehensions it's very clear to me that the beginners find contractions of verbs difficult to work out.

    If, by contractions in your original post, you meant such things as "u" and "2", then my answer would have been completely different. I find those abbreviations annoying in the extreme and I don't use them. If they are used in posts on this forum, I always correct them to read the full word.

  5. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: Contractions are no easy

    In the advertising/promotional materials I write, I routinely contract the "not" ones: isn't, aren't can't.

    I would not hesitate to use the "to be" contractions (I'm, we're, you're) in any letter I write for business.

    In other materials, I'm more likely to contract the I or we combinations because I want people to perceive us as real people, not a big, impersonal business. Otherwise, I tend not to use the "have" or "would" contractions. I tend not to contract the you combinations. This is largely unconscious and automatic.

    Everything depends. In my prior job, I wrote a lot of letters to customers, usually when there were financial issues, and a serious situation such as being behind in payments tended to have more formal writing style. Prior to that, I wrote a lot of employee communications, which were full of contractions.

    No one will compel anyone to use contractions, but your writing will sound more natural if you consider your audience and their expectations.

    Remember that formality is about more than contractions. If you start with "Yo dude" instead of "Dear Sir" you are less formal, no matter how many contractions the "Dear Sir" letter has.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #10

    Re: Contractions are no easy

    Hi emsr2d2,
    I also think that “textspeak” and contractions are not the same. Textspreak is the next step (after using contractions) in informal writing. So, if you do not mind using contractions, logically, you should not object using textspeak. If you are not using them, it is alright. But do you really think that you have to correct other poster’s textspeak?

    Please do not think that I am absolutely confident in what I am saying. No, I am not. I am just trying to clarify things for me. By the way, what is you opinion on using contractions in published book? It is not a letter to your friend. So I would not call it informal writing. It is neither business letter nor academic paper. So I would not call it formal writing. What are your thoughts on that?

    I thank you very much for your help.
    Last edited by sbrodsky; 18-Jul-2010 at 19:41.

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