Throughout this year, I have come to the conclusion that good writing does not mean all the rules of writing have to be followed. Many famous writers do not follow all the writing rules in their work, so why should we as students be expected to follow suit? I decided to research and learn more about the rule of contractions, and why we are taught not use them in formal writings.
To start off my research, I first looked up information about the history of this rule and how long have people been using contractions. It is believed that contractions were used while talking for an eternity, but contractions have only been recorded in writing since the Old English era. Some of these contractions used back then I had never even heard of nor seen before; these include “nis” (is not) and “naes” (was not). The reason no apostrophes are used is because the apostrophe is still a semi-recent invention to the world of writing.
Contractions have been used in some very famous work. One that comes to most people’s minds is Shakespeare’s plays and poems, since his words are well-known and quoted often. The contractions “‘tis” and “‘twere” were some of the most common contractions used in the older days of writing, but these two are not used much anymore and are could be considered extinct. But just because these particular contractions are not seen much anymore does not mean that they shouldn’t be used, just as how students using contractions in their papers shouldn’t be punished for it. I remember all throughout my education in high school, I would get points taken of my papers just for having one little “isn’t” in my papers. I would argue with teachers that using contractions in my paper didn’t ruin my paper, but was always shut down.
“Most types of writing benefit from the use of contractions. If used thoughtfully, contractions in prose sound natural and relaxed and make reading more enjoyable” (University of Chicago). The reason why students are taught not to use contractions in their writing is because teachers demonstrate that it is informal to use them, saying that contractions bring the piece of writing down. It was said that contractions make our writing “too personal” to be used in a proper written piece of work, but isn’t the point of writing to get intimate and express yourself to the audience? The best articles of writing are often remembered for the way the author writes to the reader.
Now there are times when it may not be appropriate to use contractions. “Ain’t” has gotten the reputation of being a Southern word, and it is thought of as disrespectful when it is used. For formal writing, “ain’t” should always be avoided. There are other times where contractions should be avoided. Resumes are probably not the place to use them, as well as cover letters, as these are extremely formal pieces of writing. Another time contractions should not be used is when it can be used with procession versus a shorten version of is. For example, if you started off saying “The dog’s…” it could be seen as “the dog is” as well as “the dog’s [tail].”
Contractions should be allowed in writing. It does not necessarily bring a piece of writing down if there aren’t any in it. Using them in writing breaks down the unfamiliar barrier between the reader and the writer. It makes the piece of work more personal and directed towards the audience. When the rule is ignored, it does not hugely affect the piece of work at all.
Contractions just have a way of making a written piece of work more peculiar. When you write how you speak, it makes the paper seem more relatable. Contractions help the audience make a better connection with the author through this idea. On a personal level, I think using them can improve one’s writing. The impact of contractions can make or break a piece of work if used correctly, just because of how it helps the audience connect to the writer.
I think the rule of not using contractions should be abolished. It does not bring down a paper, if anything, it can help bring it up. Professionals like to say contractions indicate a lack of formality, but is that not a good thing? When papers are too formal, it can ruin them and not make for a very interesting read. If you can’t keep your audience, then what’s the point?
Federal Aviation Administration. “Use Contractions When Appropriate.” Federal Plain Language Guidelines:. Federal Aviation Administration, 14 May 2002. Web. 17 Oct. 2012.
University of Chicago. “Grammar and Usage: Contractions.” The Chicago Manual of Style Online. The Chicago Manual of Style, 1 Jan. 2010. Web. 17 Oct. 2012. <http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/16/ch05/ch05_sec103.html>.
Stolley, Karl. “Writing Question of the Week.” Purdue OWL News. Erin Karper, 15 June 2004. Web. 11 Oct. 2012. <http://owl.english.purdue.edu/purdueowlnews/516>.
Wells., Jaclyn M. “1.4: Contractions.” Purdue OWL Engagement. Allen Brizee, 23 Mar. 2009. Web. 7 Oct. 2012. <https://owl.english.purdue.edu/engagement/index.php?category_id=2>.