6. I'm Having Contractions!
I’m on the stickler end of the grammar scale, but in some matters, sound and tone trump the “rules.”
I strongly believe that in real life most people think and speak in contractions (“I’ll” instead of “I will,” “don’t” instead of “do not”). Yet I constantly come across writing that contains barely a single one. I personally don’t recall ever being taught that contractions were to be avoided (and I went through 12 years of Catholic school back in the day), but it appears plenty of others have—particularly, I’m guessing, in college and grad-school journalism classes, which, for better or worse, I never took.
Assiduously avoiding contractions makes writing sound unintentionally stodgy or stilted—academic. Justifiable exceptions include keeping the words separate for emphasis, say, or rhythm. In dialogue, that more formal approach can be a useful way to suggest the speaker’s voice, temperament, or even age. But in general, contractions bring the reader closer to the narrator, to the characters, to the story itself.
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