12 Days of Writing Tips: Day Four–Contractions


I did not go to the store.

I will not go to the shore.
I do not play the flute.

I should not go down the Shute. 

I love The Lorax. It’s probably my favourite animated film, and of course the original Dr Suess book is one of a kind. 

That said, I don’t want to sound like him when I’m writing adult novels. What do you notice about the above? 

A distinct lack of contractions, should have been your answer. (Not the awful wording. Though, that said, Dr Suess often uses them.)

A serious lack of contractions is something I see more than any other writing habit. And here’s the thing: it messes with your writing. ‘I can not go there.’ ‘I can’t go there.’ See the difference? One sounds formal, one doesn’t. 

In English, we naturally use contractions in everyday speech. We tend to reserve non-contractions for emphasis or formal speaking/papers. Not using them in your writing will make your characters sound less authentic than they could. It will also clutter up your exposition. 

Tip: use contractions except where you want to place emphasis, or if you’ve got a character who speaks very formally. 

Writing challenge: go through your work in progress and see what contractions you are, and aren’t, using. 

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