Help With Use Of Contractions

Discussion in 'Indie Writing, Publishing & Marketing Discussion' started by drdaveherndon, Mar 29, 2012.

  1. drdaveherndon

    drdaveherndon New Member

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    I currently have a couple of English majors helping to edit my latest book, which is non-fiction. There has been a debate over whether I should use contractions or not. One feels that it makes the book too "formal", while the other feels that contraction usage is a no-no. Any thoughts on this? Does the usage of contractions take away from reading enjoyment or does the lack of them make a book too stuffy? I want just average, ordinary people to be able to pick the book and enjoy it, but I also don't want to have a literary person trash it because of grammar style.
     
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  2. sherrijots

    sherrijots New Member

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    First of all, English majors tend to fixate on proper grammar usage. Obsessive compulsive doesn't even begin to describe their condition. That's great if you are writing a formal paper or scholarly work. But if you are writing fiction, a more relaxed form of writing is the way to go if you ask me. I'm not saying you should be sloppy with your editing, but a lot of the formal rules can be tossed, like it or not. I don't think I would ever get an English major to edit my works of fiction. One of my best friends is an English major. It took years for me to stop reading and re-reading my personal emails to her for typos and grammatical errors. Now I just type an email to her, send it, and forget it about it. I'm sure she cringes a bit when she reads them, but we keep emailing each other nonetheless. :lol:
     
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  3. sherrijots

    sherrijots New Member

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    One more comment concerning English majors editing works of fiction. Here's an analogy: It's like having a Pharisee come to your church to speak on grace. :D

    (To any English majors reading this: I'm kidding! Sort of...)
     
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  4. drdaveherndon

    drdaveherndon New Member

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    What about with non-fiction?
     
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  5. MaryCFindley

    MaryCFindley New Member

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    We used a mixture in our non-fiction book. Partly more formal teaching style, partly invite you in. Try to be that teacher you loved and respected, not the one who put you to sleep, or the one so busy being modern and up on the latest jargon, but therefore quickly dated and irrelevant. By the way, I'm an English major and former teacher and I hate grammar.
     
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  6. Traci B

    Traci B New Member

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    Dr. Dave, do you want your readers to feel as though you're talking to them or preaching? If you're looking for a conversational tone, go with the contractions. If you want a more scholarly tone, don't use them.

    Word's grammar checker flagged my contractions all through my novel, but I wanted an informal tone, so I ignored it - repeatedly... ;)
     
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  7. drdaveherndon

    drdaveherndon New Member

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    Thanks everyone!
     
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  8. MaryCFindley

    MaryCFindley New Member

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    Word always flags contractions unless you do a lot of reconfiguring. I'm glad I do't have to depend on it. Still gets its and it's wrong, and many other mistakes.
     
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  9. Traci B

    Traci B New Member

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    So true, Mary. I use Word's spell and grammar checks as backups to my own proofing, but more often than not, I spend most of my time fussing at the machine and telling it to "Add to Dictionary" or "Ignore Rule". ;)
     
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  10. MaryCFindley

    MaryCFindley New Member

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    Word is good for catching actual typos that I have missed in multiple passes. That's why I still use it. I guess I should use the add to dictionary more often but there's always that nagging feeling in the back of my mind, "What if I spelled that unusual name wrong the time I hit add to dictionary?" It'll be wrong every other time. :)
     
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  11. Traci B

    Traci B New Member

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    I know what you mean about the pitfalls of Add to Dictionary, but I often use words it doesn't recognize - names, southernisms (like "cous" for "cousin", and "southernisms" - this site's spell check is flagging that one), etc. - and I simply get tired of that red squiggly line yelling at me after a while. ;)
     
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  12. MaryCFindley

    MaryCFindley New Member

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    You're right about the red squiggly lines. Very annoying with regionalisms and unusual names.
     
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