Using Contractions in Your Writing

Q: A member of my writers’ workshop said that contractions should only be used in dialogue, not when expressing characters’ thoughts. Are there any rules on this? -Linda


A: Maybe there’s a rule written down somewhere. I don’t know.

What I do know is that if somebody told me not to use contractions anywhere except in dialogue, I would never listen to that person’s advice again. It’s nonsense.

The most important rule of all is to write the smoothest, most seamless prose you can. Write in such a way that nothing hits the reader’s ear wrong or tears them out of the story. Contractions make the language more economical – by avoiding them you’d end up sounding pretty awkward and wooden, I would think.

How could you not? Deep down, you know which rules to follow and which ones to break. This one you break.

Steve Hamilton, Author of the Alex McKnight Novels
Winner of the Edgar and Shamus Awards for Best First Novel