A contraction is a literary device used to make your writing less formal and more conversational. Since contractions approximate the “sounds” of spoken words used in informal conversation, they’re interpreted in your reader’s minds as written language that’s more relaxed and easier to digest.
Language that’s formal or hard to process, such as that used in legal documents, almost never makes use of contractions, which is one of the reasons legalese can be so boring to read and process.
As a writer, particularly a nonfiction writer geared to a consumer audience, the use of contractions is a great technique to put your readers at ease by lowering potential barriers of communication, as if you were signaling through your writing that you’re a “friendly” person.
In technical terms, a contraction is a way to eliminate certain letters from words (or certain words from phrases), replacing them with an apostrophe to provide your reader with a visual cue of the omission — there are some exceptions where even the apostrophe itself is omitted!
In order to provide you with more tools for your author’s tool chest, I’ve compiled below a large list of contractions so that you don’t have to scour the Internet for useful examples. Hopefully you’ll find this collection to be a handy reference for your writing.
Here are 129 examples of contractions you can use, divided into the following 9 groups:
1-Contraction of Pronouns, 2-Contraction of Negatives, 3-Contraction of Verbs, 4-Contraction by Omission, 5-Contraction of Years, 6-Miscellaneous Contractions, 7-Single-Word Contractions, 8-Informal Contractions, 9-Contractions of Proper Nouns
Run o’the mill
Jack of the lantern
Of the clock
Run of the mill
|February ’69||February 1969|
7-Single-Word Contractions (no apostrophe):
What is up
Some of these contractions may sound silly, and some are best used only when writing dialogue intended to accurately represent speech, but they all have their uses. If you’re not sure if a particular contraction is correct or appropriate, ask your editor for advice.
If you enjoyed this article and are in the process of writing a nonfiction book, be sure to check out my free nonfiction success guide, drawn from years of experience editing books for bestselling authors (including a New York Times bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.
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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, marketing, printing and distribution.