Thursday, October 06, 2016

I'm a Contraction Junky!

I'm a contraction junky. There, I've said it! It's in the open and I can deal with it. Inherently lazy, I like contractions.
I know as an English teacher, contractions are supposed to be frowned upon. Avoiding contractions in formal writing is important. Avoiding them in informal writing makes the work sound forced and stilted.

What's the difference between informal and formal writing?
Informal writing: novels, poems, friendly letters, texts to friends, blog posts.
Formal writing: term papers, newspaper articles, speeches, textbooks. In short, anything that isn't a novel, poem, friendly letter, text or blog post.

What's the big deal with using contractions in formal writing?
The big deal is IT'S FORMAL. Think of it like the difference between dressing for prom or dressing for a casual party. You're not going to wear ratty jeans and a T-shirt to prom. Nor are you going to wear a tux to a casual party. (At least I hope not!)
In formal writing, the author does not directly address his/ her audience. There is a degree of separation not found in informal writing. One avoids the use of I in formal writing, as well as avoidance of the pronoun you. It is impersonal and usually non-fiction.
Informal writing is more about engaging the reader, involving him/ her in the story, poem, letter or text. It's a very personal involvement, using I and you freely. There is no degree of separation as the goal is to bring the reader into the writing/ reading experience.
Contractions bring in a casual sense that formal writing cannot abide. They are anathema, forbidden, to be avoided. However, people rarely speak without contractions. We generally don't say, “I am going to the store with Mona. We will not be long. We will be driving straight there and back.” Shorten that puppy as much as possible. “I'm going to the store with Mona. We won't be long. We'll be driving straight there and back.”
If I have a character who speaks without contractions, it sounds bizarre and we wonder if they're foreign or speaking in another language. People are informal creatures unless they're in a formal situation where they're trying to make a good impression. I choose to make my work approachable, easy to read and as informal as can be. It's chock full of contractions, because they rock!
Don't be afraid of contractions. They aren't spooky, nor are they wrong. They're simply there to serve their purpose and move on. Embrace contractions. You won't be sorry.

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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