In ancient times, people started speaking to each other and one day, somebody shortened up two words. They said, “Its going to be hot today.” Instead of, “It is going to be hot today.” Later on, people began developing letters that represented words and they needed a way to describe these shortened words. To solve this dilemma, the contraction was invented. “It’s going to be hot today.” A whole new world of words opened up. Couldn't, he'll, I'm, let's, that's, what're, won't, you're, we’re. And of course, the most important contraction ever written, Bill’s. Well, it’s important to me.
So many new words for authors and readers alike. Well, from my perspective, there was a major problem. I absolutely hated contractions. My first book [Interviewing Immortality] had none in the first draft. My beta reader (mom) asked me, “Why did you intentionally delete all your contractions?” I had no real answer other than to express my dislike. It was clear that my work needed to be updated. To address this, I found a list of contractions and did a search/replace where it seemed appropriate.
“It’s going to be hot today.” To me, that read like an uneducated person describing the weather and not the words of a polished author. The reality is of course that my everyday speech is full of contractions.
When I write, I intentionally “decompress” contractions into their formal two-word form. That’s simply how my mind works. In subsequent books (which are still in the editing stage) I struggled with contractions. When is it proper to use them? Reading other books didn’t help. Authors seemed to use a shotgun loaded with apostrophes and blasted their books. To me, it looked like bad grammar on some pages [overuse] and a complete contraction avoidance on other pages.
Of course, I read all the rules, style guides and made extensive use of grammar programs. To me, it was a forced process, but after 2 years, I occasionally put a contraction into a sentence without a second thought.
However, I’ve come to understand that there’s a harsh reality to effective writing. Good contraction use is the mark of a good author. It shows the mastery of the English language. Why? A contraction is actually power. It allows characters to go from informal to formal. Bob casually stated, “It’s going to be hot today.” Bob warned the assembled people, “It is going to be hot today.” That’s the power of words. They paint a mental picture of what the character is projecting.
For me, this change is still in the beginning stages. I suspect that it will be at least 5 years before I use contractions without a second thought. Recently, I was reviewing one of my old documents and I could see the complete avoidance of contractions. To me, this now read wrong and there was clear room for improvement. It turns out that contractions are actually my new powerful friends. An interesting revelation.
You’re the best -Bill
September 05, 2018
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