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They're?

Crumbly Writer

What's everyone's feelings on using the term "they're"? Despite the contraction being the same for both "they are" and "they were", many people (readers and editors both) seem to assume that it always means "they are", despite all evidence to the contrary.

So, do you contract "they are" but not "they were" for the lazy readers who can't handle past tense contractions? Do you change legitimate contractions because a few people might be confused by simple English? Or do you simply assume "it's not worth the trouble" when the few people who don't understand complain?

In short, do you, or do you not, contract "they were" into "they're"?

aubie56

I don't know! The words come up so seldom in my writing that I don't know how I would use them. It would probably depend on the context. For example, contractions were almost never used in common speech before 1900, so I would never use "they're" in a Western, but I don't know beyond that.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


So, do you contract "they are" but not "they were" for the lazy readers


I never gave it any thought. I have no idea what I do. But my guess is I only use it for "they are." Not for lazy readers. It makes sense to me. Just because you can contract two words doesn't mean it works better to do so.

Crumbly Writer

@aubie56

I raise the point, because I keep getting different responses by different editors. Some don't worry about it, some insist that I'm changing tense mid-sentence, and others advice I avoid any potential confusion. But, it's a battle I wage every time I get a new editor.

In short, do we assume readers are idiots who don't know how the English language works, or do we use the language as it was designed.

Frankly, I'm still not settled on the answer, and often deal with it on a case by case basis. (This is probably why many authors (like Switch) concentrate on present tense stories.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

In short, do we assume readers are idiots who don't know how the English language works, or do we use the language as it was designed.


Language evolves, it isn't designed. With very few exceptions, there is no authoritative body that designs a language.

Sometimes the rules change. Often when this happens, one group or another gets in a snit about the change and tries to enforce the new rule or the old rule, that doesn't mean that they actually have the authority to do so.

Crumbly Writer

To put the discussion in context, here's how it appears in the story:

"So you're not dating … at the moment," Lucy clarified, arching her eyebrow. In Lucy's defense, they were really expressive so she used them a lot for their dramatic effect. "You're clearly not straight."

It stands out, because the contractions in the first and third sentences are in present tense (as dialogue), while the narrative's contraction (the only author intrusion in the entire chapter), is past.

I'm guessing because the sentences flip between present-past-present, I should eliminate the single past-tense contraction (i.e. this is a 'special case' rather than a rule).

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

(This is probably why many authors (like Switch) concentrate on present tense stories.


Not me. I hate present tense stories.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

In that example, I would not contract it.

MisguidedC

They're for They are is an easy yes. Using they're for They were depends on the sentence, and how to get the most impact from your words.

I don't worry a lot about what is correct grammar when I write. I do correct grammar when I do my personal edits, but the edits are still aimed at getting the most impact from my words that I can. As for correct grammar and punctuation, I let my editors corrections guide me.

Dominion's Son

@Switch Blayde

Not me. I hate present tense stories.


I get the dislike of present tense stories, but I don't get why, particularly in the case of a story set in the future?

Crumbly Writer

@Dominion's Son

This is a stupid reason for a writer, but I've always preferred the 'fireside storyteller' model of telling stories, where an undisclosed person describes events which happened in the past (so they're over and done with). It's also known as "3rd person omniscient".

However, the current trend in the YA (Young-Adult) market is for younger writers to write 1st person, present tense stories. So, to a large degree, it's a generational divide. Younger writers write in present tense, older writers select past.

I'll let Switch relate the pros and cons of each, as he's had more of these discussions in his YA Forum.

Replies:   Wheezer  Dominion's Son
Wheezer

They're meaning they were must be a regional thing. I've never heard of it meaning that, and always assume they're means they are. If it does not fit the context of the sentence, I just assume the author fucked up.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
sejintenej

Whatever the context I would always expect they're to be present tense and unabbreviated for past tense which I think is normal in Britain.
As for past v present tense stories, surely in many a predominently present tense opus reference has to be made to an event which led up to the present situation?

Wheezer

@Crumbly Writer

Present tense stories read like a screen play or stage directions to me. It feels completely unnatural to me. It does not tell a story. The video or movie or play made from that script might tell a story, but not the script itself.

Switch Blayde

@Dominion's Son

I get the dislike of present tense stories, but I don't get why, particularly in the case of a story set in the future?


Present tense stories sound awkward to me. Maybe it's because I grew up with the classics which were all past tense. Past tense also sounds natural to my ear because you're telling a story that happened (rather than is happening).

But I realize present tense is growing in popularity. I recently read "Killing Lincoln," which is non-fiction about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Obviously it's a story that happened in the past. And it is written in present tense. I found it troubling to read.

I don't know about stories set in the future. Isn't "1984" written in past tense? At the time, it took place in the future.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  tppm
tppm

I contract both, and let context show which they would expand to. My problem is with the other two homonyms "their" and "there" all three (four) being confused.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Isn't "1984" written in past tense? At the time, it took place in the future.

That's because George Orwell knew we'd still be reading it in 2015, so he kindly wrote it in the past tense.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Thinking about it further, I would not use "they're" as a contraction for "they were." If you look "they're" up on Dictionary.com, it's a contraction for "they are." No mention about "they were."

Crumbly Writer

@tppm

Homonyms are always tricky, and they're difficult to spot. But in this case, I never realized that the British don't contract "they are". That would affect how a lot of people would read the story.

Replies:   Grant
tppm

@Switch Blayde

Isn't "1984" written in past tense? At the time, it took place in the future.


It's also because the publisher switched the last two digits of the title. They thought Big Brother and the Ministry of Truth would be more likely to approve it as "distant" future forecast/warning than as a depiction of the contemporary situation. (Also it IS in Winston Smith's past.)

Dominion's Son

@Crumbly Writer

I'll be 46 on Monday, so I'm hardly a younger writer. :)

Grant

@Crumbly Writer

In short, do you, or do you not, contract "they were" into "they're"?

When I was at school (a very long time ago), "they're" was a contraction of "they are". "They were" was never contracted.

richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

The reason to consider readers as idiots is because we are. Why else would we be reading your stories?

Grant

@Crumbly Writer

But in this case, I never realized that the British don't contract "they are".

They do.
It's "they were" that isn't contracted.

Rondam44

If you write only for yourself, write it however you want. If you write for the reader, clarity becomes important. If the contraction might confuse some readers, don't use it.

samuelmichaels

@Crumbly Writer

Merriam-Webster defines "they're" as they are. Ditto thefreedictionary.com, dictionary.reference.com, oxforddictionaries.com.

That supports my intuition -- it's present tense.

Replies:   tppm
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I use they're in both the present and past tense, because I write in the vernacular and that's how you'd say it in either. I think most readers will understand which it is by context; that's if they bother to expand it at all.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

There's only one contraction I no longer use and that's for the word is with a personal pronoun because it can be confused with the possessive form of the pronoun. Thus I'll write Fred is going instead of Fred's going to keep the meaning clear.

Replies:   Grant
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

I think he confused you with me, mate.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominion's Son

Many people who dislike present tense stories do so because what they're used to are past tense stories and present tense ones don't feel right to them. Historically, prior to the 20th century writers used them both fairly regularly but most 20th century writers wrote only in the past tense, so that's what many people today are used to.

Ernest Bywater

@Wheezer

Can't be regional because I use they're for both tense and I'm an Aussie while CW is half a world away.

Replies:   Grant
Grant
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


Can't be regional because I use they're for both tense and I'm an Aussie while CW is half a world away.


I was educated in Papua New Guinea, NSW and the NT; the contraction was used only for "they are".

My parents were educated in SA; the contraction was used only for "they are".

My Nieces & Nephews were/are being educated in QLD; even there the contraction was/is used only for "they are".

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Grant

@Ernest Bywater

Thus I'll write Fred is going instead of Fred's going to keep the meaning clear.


Whereas for me, "Fred's going" can only be interpreted to mean "Fred is going", and "Freds' car" indicates the car belongs to Fred.

English is very much like standards- there are so many different types, of the same one.

KinkyWinks

I write pretty much the same way I talk, and I say they're, ya'll, and many other Texas words. I have decided that grammar freaks have way to much time to waste trying to correct those who really don't care what they think.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Grant

I was educated in Sydney during the 1960s and my sister was a high school English teacher in NSW and Queensland and we both use they're and we're to mean both are and were because the usage is clear through the context. Mind you, while I was in the education system they didn't teach much on contractions at all and anything we handed in wasn't allowed to use them.

When I was in uni and tech college in ACT during the 90's the writing classes there taught contractions with the notation never to use them in technical documents or formal reports. They use the contractions for both present and past tense.

Replies:   Grant
Grant
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


I was educated in Sydney during the 1960s and my sister was a high school English teacher in NSW and Queensland and we both use they're and we're to mean both are and were because the usage is clear through the context.


For me it was the early/mid 70's.

They're & we're I agree are both valid as a contraction for they are and we are.

However I had never come across using they're or we're as contractions for they were or we were until now. For me, they're has always been used for they are.

I agree, the context does show the meaning, but when you're not used to they're being used for they were & you read is at they are and it does throw me off.

EDIT- I'm glad we get prompted when we try to delete a post- I meant to click on edit and not delete. Saved me considerable confusion & hassle.

Switch Blayde

@Grant

Well, "read" is worse than anything we're (we are) talking about here. It's ridiculous for that word to be both present and past tense.

Every time I read it I have to stop to determine the tense. It's absurd to use the same word for both tenses.

Replies:   Grant
Grant
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Well, "read" is worse than anything we're (we are) talking about here. It's ridiculous for that word to be both present and past tense.


But still better than having 3 different words depending on whether it's past, present or future tense...

EDIT- or male or female or neuter gender. Probably have to add a fourth now for transgender...

EDIT- and lets not forget formal or informal forms (never did well in German, but I did even worse in French).

Ernest Bywater

@Grant

Grant,

In a way I've been a bit lucky with some past employments. About a decade ago I was working at a NSW uni and got to know a few of the professor well. I was speaking to one of the English profs one day and we got on to the topic of why so many stories were written in the past tense, and ended up with an hour lecture on what he believed to be the causes for that. Historically, prior to the 20th century, both past and present were well accepted. Anyway, one thing I did get out of the incident was that with the way the tense changes between dialogue and narrative when writing in the past tense you had to be a lot more specific in how you wrote, and that forced a more formal use of English on the writer which often made some parts seems stilted.

I prefer to use vernacular, and that's a lot looser than formal English because it's how we talk. And when talking we use they're for both are and were, well I do and so do everyone I've talked to. About the only time we don't contract while talking is to emphasis the uncontracted word or it doesn't have a contracted version.

Anyway, writing in the present tense means I rarely use the past tense, so it's not much of an issue for me.

Crumbly Writer

@KinkyWinks

I write pretty much the same way I talk, and I say they're, ya'll, and many other Texas words. I have decided that grammar freaks have way to much time to waste trying to correct those who really don't care what they think.

KinkyWinks, that's why you need to be clear on your narrator. If you're writing about Southerners, then they should speak like Southerns. But unless your narrator is a Texan, and is identified as such, the narration should be in 'standard English' (whatever you consider that to be).

Many argue that the narration should never use contractions, but I find that a bit too formal for my tastes.

Grant: my initial question was whether I should treat readers like idiots (i.e. incapable to grasping context). It was overly strong. However, as I said, the context (mixing the tense of the contraction in each of the three sentences) was overly complex. I was clearly in the wrong, in this case, but didn't realize why it was especially confusing.

I'm also reconsidering my use of "they're" for "they were", at least in the narrative, since while it may be common usage, it's not proper English.

richardshagrin

Its generally accepted languages evolve. Old and Middle English and even some of the language from the founding fathers of the United States of America can be hard to follow. Why else do we need 9 judges of the Supreme Court to decide what they wrote?

Not everyone accepts that the language they learned in school is busy evolving away from what they were taught. Texting is going to be the new written English, unless an amalgam of it and Spanish (I mean Mexican, or at least what is spoken in our neighbors to the south, mostly) is what population trends say. Canadians have a similar problem, but with French being spoken by their minority. Parisians and similar French snobs probably disagree that what is spoken in Quebec is French, but the written form is closer to the Standard from the original homeland. Brazil has similar evolution from the language spoken in Portugal. Eventually and it may take a long long time, the written form will follow what is spoken. Texting just follows what the young ladies and gentlemen (and I am being sarcastic here) hear when they speak. I am 70 years old and don't text or tweet. I am not a twit, I don't twitter. I may be pessimistic, but I think of it as realism, and pessimists are rarely disappointed. Happily Surprised, once in a while, but seldom disappointed. Every generation thinks its children and grandchildren's generations are going to hell in a handbasket. More of Grandma's English, who sees handbaskets these days?

Back to whatever point I was trying to make. Texting is going to be first the new informal written English, and will gradually creep into more formal English until the 99th amendment to the constitution will use texting English, and the vernacular will be half Spanglish. Change may or may not be good, but that is what you are going to get.

One more change, there won't be many coins, most transactions will be by debit or credit card. So mostly you won't be getting that kind of change (pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters. Nobody (almost nobody) uses fifty cent and dollar coins these days. If it weren't for sales taxes they would abolish the Penney. Or just round up. No more $3.99 eBooks. They will be an honest $4.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

They'll never get rid of the penny, otherwise they'd have to list the actual price, rather than "$999,999.99". Likewise, Spanglish isn't likely to catch on, because English is now the global language for multicultural communication. It might sway in different forums, but you'll notice the shortcuts used in twitter rarely move to the other websites in a consistent manner.

Grant

@Crumbly Writer

They'll never get rid of the penny, otherwise they'd have to list the actual price, rather than "$999,999.99".

They got rid of 1 & 2 cent pieces here in Australia a (couple?) of decades ago.
You still get items at the supermarket (grocery store) & Woolies etc for $1.99 or $2.98; at the checkout the final total is rounded up or down to the nearest 5 cents for cash transactions.

richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

You probably are right and I was not pessimistic enough. If we get enough visitors from south of the border and they continue to reproduce with the frequency seen there, the new English will be Spanish. Other countries will learn English to communicate with each other and the majority of our residents (not sure if they will be citizens or not, political events are hard to predict) will speak Spanish as their native tongue. There are parts of the Southwest (mostly the parts we stole from Mexico) where they teach English as a second language in schools. For that matter a lot of people in eastern Washington state started out as Mexican agricultural workers and moved into other fields. Not different crops, Fields of work like restaurant work and construction and so forth where the entry level doesn't require a lot of English and a college degree. If their parents had green cards or amnesty or if their birth was recorded in a US hospital they are citizens now. And just as concerned about undocumented workers as many Anglo workers are. Often they are the ones whose jobs are at risk, and whose wages are depressed by the opportunity employers have of hiring the newly emigrated. Its the "No Irish need apply" all over again with different ethnicity.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

You've got that one wrong, CW. Here in Australia the smallest denomination coin is five cents ($0.05) the copper one and two cent coins were abolished many years ago, but things still get priced with odd values, and some (like fuel) in part cents. All that happens is when it's totaled up it gets rounded to the nearest five cent amount if being paid for in cash, while electronic payments are in the exact amount.

Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

Parisians and similar French snobs probably disagree that what is spoken in Quebec is French


I read once, that in trying to protect the language, the French government tried to declare French a dead language (so it couldn't keep evolving), that they actually created a government committee that must approve any new French words.

Replies:   sejintenej
Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

and they continue to reproduce with the frequency seen there


They don't. From studies I have seen, reproduction rates for immigrants drop to the US average within 2 generations.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Many argue that the narration should never use contractions, but I find that a bit too formal for my tastes.


I followed that "rule" at one time. Then I read a Stephen King book and the narration was full of contractions. I read other current genre books and found the same. So now I use contractions in the narrative. Not always, though. Sometimes it sounds better without the contraction.

sejintenej

@Dominions Son

Yes French use of words has to be approved by a committee. For example I am using an "ordinateur" and not a "computer". That said, often the original is used in street-speak; for example "le weekend" instead of "fin de semaine". Also, on the street, accents are often ignored. I think the circumflex (caret) ^ has been officially dropped. It goes further - England uses "pound" as a currency and as a weight. In France the UK currency is called a livre and in the market I can order a livre of tomatoes and get 500 grammes which is almost an English pound weight.

Spanish; there are almost as many varieties as contries so does the US use Puerto Rican, Mexican, Cuban or proper Castelleno? (Don't answer that) It's so bad that the one M.I.T. undergraduate course covers about five different versions. Most are OK but written Paraguayan is (to me) totally unintelligible.

Replies:   Dominions Son
KinkyWinks

@Crumbly Writer

Crumbly, what you guys are not taking into consideration is, If a person has always said things a certain way, then it is normal to us, and we only take notice when someone says it different.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
tppm

@samuelmichaels

Merriam-Webster defines "they're" as they are. Ditto thefreedictionary.com, dictionary.reference.com, oxforddictionaries.com.


You do know that English language dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive, don't you? That is they describe what is, as of their last research, not what should be, per some arbitrary set of rules.

Replies:   samuelmichaels
Dominions Son

@sejintenej

I get what you are saying about Spanish. There is an old saying in the US, The US and Great Briton: two nations divided by a common language.

Crumbly Writer

@KinkyWinks

Understood, Kinky. I've long had a habit of ALL my characters talking like I do, and thus my children sound like their college professors. However, characters (including the narrator) each need their own voice, as it helps flesh out the characters. You may have trouble dropping your natural way of speaking, but you need to at least be aware of the issue.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

You know, I'm amazed that this simple query (and the one on expressing thoughts) have SO many more responses than the other forum threads. It must tap into a deep-seated issue for most of us.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

However, characters (including the narrator) each need their own voice,


This is where I disagree -- about the narrator. I don't know if I'm right or wrong, but I have my opinion.

Yes, a first-person narrator has their own voice. Huck Finn. The boy in "Catcher in the Rye." One of the blurbs in the "Green Mile" is about the strong voice of the narrator. But the 1st-person narrator is a character in the story so it makes sense to give him his own voice, just like every other character in the story (I agree with that part of the statement).

That leaves us the omniscient narrator and the narrator in 3rd-limited.

In the article I linked to about head-hopping using "The Old Man and the Sea" as an example, the writer of the article said you need to establish the narrator right away. I don't know if he is talking about voice or simply to get into more than one character's head so you know there's an omniscient narrator. But I don't believe that kind of omniscient narrator has a voice, like a character in the story does. So I don't believe it should be written with a vernacular voice (Ernest, we'll have to disagree on this one as well). So it should be as close to formal writing as possible. Yes, contractions are acceptable and even preferred. And such things as fragmented sentences are acceptable for effect.

Now if the omniscient narrator is sort of a character in the story, like Death in "The Book Thief," then it should have a voice. But in that novel, it's a first-person omniscient narrator. I'm not sure if that ever applies to a 3rd-person omniscient narrator.

That leaves 3rd-limited. This is where I hear the most conflicting opinions. Some say the author should write each scene in the POV character's voice for that scene. I don't agree. I believe you want an invisible narrator, if you can call it a narrator. (You definitely don't want it to be the author's voice although each author has their own style.) When I say "invisible" I mean just like the camera is invisible when watching a movie. You see what the camera sees, but you don't want to know where the camera is or what model it is. And it doesn't change from scene to scene.

How the POV character acts will be reflected in how that scene is narrated, but to me that's not voice.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

You know, I'm amazed that this simple query (and the one on expressing thoughts) have SO many more responses than the other forum threads.


I believe because they have more thread drift.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Yes, a first-person narrator has their own voice. Huck Finn. The boy in "Catcher in the Rye." One of the blurbs in the "Green Mile" is about the strong voice of the narrator. But the 1st-person narrator is a character in the story so it makes sense to give him his own voice, just like every other character in the story (I agree with that part of the statement).

That leaves us the omniscient narrator and the narrator in 3rd-limited.

Switch, I was switching emphasis. By 'voice', I meant 'writing style' for the narrator. Even if the narrator IS NOT a specific character, the narration should have it's own literary voice (a consistent style of speaking), even if that merely means a slightly more formal speaking tone than the other accented characters. But it does not mean a distinct character personality.

I believe because they have more thread drift.

Ah, I mess the thread drift of old (on the old GG Forum)! 'D

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


the narration should have it's own literary voice (a consistent style of speaking),


I agree. But this is where I've heard other opinions (on wattpad) in 3rd-limited. They say the narration changes from scene to scene as the POV character changes. I believe the narrative should be consistent throughout the novel.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

I believe the narrative should be consistent throughout the novel.


This we can agree on, I think. The only time I've changed the narrator's voice in a story is when I've written in 1st person and head hopped to do a chapter with another character, then the narrator was the other character. In 3rd person omni the narrator should sound and present the same all the way through.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

The only time I've changed the narrator's voice in a story is when I've written in 1st person and head hopped to do a chapter with another character, then the narrator was the other character.


That's not head-hopping. That's perfectly acceptable since you switched at the appropriate place.

In 3rd person omni the narrator should sound and present the same all the way through.


The issued is not with omni, but with 3rd-limited.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

But this is where I've heard other opinions (on wattpad) in 3rd-limited. They say the narration changes from scene to scene as the POV character changes. I believe the narrative should be consistent throughout the novel.

That's different. The narration should change as the story progresses, typically the narrator will use longer sentences when explaining details, but shorter ones when the action picks up, but the narrator should speak in the same manner (same accent--or lack of one--same formality, etc.)

I think you can do both, keep a particular speaking style for a 3rd omni narrator while still modifying his speech to fit the situation.

The only time I've changed the narrator's voice in a story is when I've written in 1st person and head hopped to do a chapter with another character, then the narrator was the other character.

Ernest, I think that's usually the assumption, but I was responding to a comment by an author who said they wrote everything in a Texas accent. I agree that it's difficult to write in a foreign (to you) manner, but that's why I said you've got to actively consider what voice you want for your narrator.

The issued is not with omni, but with 3rd-limited.

Switch, in that case, you can modify the narrator's voice, say as he slips into a catatonic state, his psychiatric medication wears off, or his hatred of the MC/bad guy gets to him. 'D

samuelmichaels
Updated:

@tppm

You do know that English language dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive, don't you? That is they describe what is, as of their last research, not what should be, per some arbitrary set of rules.


Of course I do. But the fact that none of these dictionaries list "they were", even as a secondary meaning, implies that usage is rare, if it exists at all.

The Slim Rhino

@Crumbly Writer

In short, do you, or do you not, contract "they were" into "they're"?


I avoid it all together. As English isn't my first language, and (interestingly) most spell checkers flag it as a mistake, I'm not using "they're" very often, usually only in dialog.

Arquillius

@Crumbly Writer

I try not to use contractions in my writing anymore. Reason? Because some teacher when i was in like 5th grade told me that If I space out contractions that is one less word that I have to worry about towards the word count she would put on us. I will occasionally still do it, but I often correct it.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Arquillius

School and university assignments are Formal English and contractions aren't used in Formal English. However, in fiction Formal English can look unrealistic, stilted, and read bad, which is why a lot of authors use contractions in their fiction. Making the story read more like it's spoken leads to an easier flow of the words and story.

Over the years I've written thens of millions of words in formal reports, briefs, summaries, requests, and assignments without a single contraction because I'd not think of including one in a formal document like that; still don't. Conversely, I'd not think of writing a fiction story without contractions simply because it'll look stilted and stupid.

The Slim Rhino

@Ernest Bywater

School and university assignments are Formal English and contractions aren't used in Formal English. However, in fiction Formal English can look unrealistic, stilted, and read bad, which is why a lot of authors use contractions in their fiction. Making the story read more like it's spoken leads to an easier flow of the words and story.


Use or non-use of contractions can be a stylistic element though. I've written a lot of Star Trek fanfiction and I always let Vulcans talk without using contractions at all, which emphasizes their emotional detachment.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

One caveat to Ernest's point about contractions, they're more important in dialogue, and they're optional in the narrative. In dialogue, they help characters sound more authentic. Many of us also include them in the narrative, but there's not always a compelling reason to do so (other than making the entire book feel more 'comfortable').

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