Contractions Are Your Friend

I have a running battle with people who ask me to write something for them, then ask that I take out all the contractions.

For some reason, a lot of people think that formal language is smart language. So they eliminate contractions, or choose big, impersonal words (like “utilize”) instead of little friendly words (like “use”).

There are two problems with this idea:

1. It’s not true.

2. Even if it were true, my usual goal isn’t to sound smart, but to get the information across in the best way.

I use contractions when I write practically anything, because people are comfortable with them. Rather than make them feel they’re being lectured, I want them to feel that they’re being helped or informed.

The latest installment of the Chicago Manual of Style’s Q & A includes this line:

“A complete avoidance of contractions is common only in the most formal writing (think wedding invitations, or speeches before the queen).”

I’m sending that to everyone who asks me to turn “it’s” into “it is.”

One Response to Contractions Are Your Friend

  1. Jeffrey May 26, 2010 at 1:06 am #

    Please, please, PLEASE come write for EPA.

    99% of my edits are to put contractions back into writing that’s supposed to be informal, like for our blog.

    The other 1% is mercilessly whacking “impact” used as a verb.

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