Should you be having contractions?

They can be painful. Of course, I’m referring to arguments about whether it’s okay to use those delightful little word combinations we call contractions. You know them: cannot becomes can’t, will not shortens to won’t, and so forth.

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

Relax and breathe. Contractions are a healthy thing. In fact, it’s generally better to use them in copy that’s being created to inform, persuade, convince, enlighten, and even sell. Why? 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.

When your teachers objected to 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 The Mayor of Casterbridge for your Literature 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.

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