One of the biggest misconceptions about writing for business or promotional purposes involves those handy little word combinations that we call contractions. You’re familiar with them: cannot becomes can’t, will not shortens to won’t, and so forth.

When professional writers insert those handy contractions into the copy they develop, it often creates a strange reaction among their clients. Suddenly, those clients doubt the very competence of the writer they’ve hired or assume that the writer must have been poorly educated. Why? Because one or more of their teachers told them that using contractions was a big no-no.

Relax. Contractions are just fine. In fact, it’s generally better to use them in copy that’s being created to inform, persuade, convince, enlighten, and even sell. Why? All that copy is at its most effective when it’s conversational. The more the copy sounds like people talking, the more compelling and convincing it will be. It’s easier on the brain, because it’s what we’re accustomed to hearing.

So am I saying the teachers were wrong? Not at all. But when they proscribed contractions, they were referring to the very formal style of writing used in — and only in — the academic world.  If you’re writing a term paper on symbolism in a George Orwell book for your British Lit class, you’ll want nary a contraction within your text. But outside of the classroom and campus, don’t be afraid to use contractions. They’re actually quite pleasant, and they’ll grow on you.