Should You Use Contractions?

Should You Use Contractions?

Contractions are an easy way to shorten words, but do they belong in academic writing?

The quick and easy answer: they do not.

With a few exceptions, you should never use contractions in academic and professional writing. While there is nothing inherently wrong or grammatically incorrect about using contractions, it lowers the perceived quality of the writing.

Exit polls often don't indicate the winner of an election.
Exit polls often do not indicate the winner of an election.

As demonstrated by the above examples, the change is subtle but important. The second sentence, with no contractions, reads much clearer and is more definitive and declarative. It makes for a stronger point and more polished writing.

There is nothing wrong with using contractions in everyday speech or nonacademic writing. In fact, using contractions verbally can make your English sound more fluid. However, to make your papers the best they can be, avoid using contractions if possible.

Note: if you are quoting another source, such as citing a line of dialogue from a book, be sure to include all punctuation, including any contractions. Quotations can be very effective in many types of essays, but be sure to not alter the quotation itself in any way without denoting the change in brackets ( [ ] ).

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