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Tone: A Matter of Attitude - CommNet
While contractions can be very useful in written English, many experts caution against the use of contractions in formal communication. Since contractions tend to add a light and informal tone to your writing, they are often inappropriate for academic research papers, business presentations, and other types of official correspondence. However, this rule does have some flexibility.
If we tried counting contractions for the entire articles from which these paragraphs are taken, we would discover that there is only one contraction a in Wilson's article and there are twenty contractions in Castleman's, even though Wilson's article is considerably longer. How do these contractions, or the lack of them, affect your sense of the seriousness of the essays? Visit the web-sites of other well known magazines. (Click for a list of hyperlinks.) Find examples of clearly definable tones that seem consistent throughout an online publication. Test the contraction-count theory and see if it supports your sense of formal versus informal.
Common Contractions in the English Language : : …
One measure of the formality of our language is our use of contractions. The paragraph just before this one has five verb contractions: (twice), , and . We use contractions all the time in casual conversation, of course, and using contractions in our text will convey an informal quality. To elevate the style, eliminate the contractions and write out the verbs: "if we can maintain this tone of slight formality without being stuffy, we have hit it just right." It is a very easy matter to do a search for apostrophes in our text, and it is a very useful exercise, also. First, we can check for any possessives we may have formed incorrectly, but then we can also check for contractions. Remember, there is nothing inherently wrong with contracted verbs; however, they are one hallmark of informality, and your instructor may object to their use. It would be wise to know how your instructor feels about contractions and a looser, informal style before you experiment with their use at least in a paper that you're writing for a grade.
Contractions can be used in any position in a sentence; however, contractions such as "it's" and "they're" sound better when followed by another word or phrase. The reason is that the sounds of "its" and "it's" and "they're" and "they are" are so similar that they can be confusing unless they are used with the context of an additional word. For example:
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