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Conversational Contractions


One of the first things I find myself doing when I'm asked to edit someone else's work -- whether it's microcopy or blog posts or just about anything else -- is to add in a bunch of contractions.

You know what I mean. If the author wrote "you have," I'll change it to "you've." "Will not" becomes "won't."

I mean, not in every single case. Obviously it's not a hard and fast rule. But more often than not, contractions like these make your writing sound the way actual humans talk. And that's almost always a good thing.

I suppose it's not a good thing if you're, like, writing robot sci-fi fanfic. Or trying to expose the internal monologue of an android. But otherwise, you'd probably prefer your writing to sound human. Which means it's better to write like you talk.

I see it more often in writing that people feel should be given a more authoritative tone, like warnings or alerts or sad-making blog posts conveying bad news of one sort or another. But these are precisely the times when a more human voice is called for -- not a voice that seems to be emanating from behind some corporate curtain of doom.

Try it sometime. After you've written something, try reading it out loud. Actually out loud. Loud enough to alarm your cats. Then replace some of those stilted pronoun-verb combos (you have, I will, he would) with their contracted sisters (you've, I'll, he'd). See if it doesn't sound a whole lot better.

See which version your cat likes best. And take it from there.


Image by Kenny Teo