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I am vs. I'm and so on...

Posted: December 21st, 2009, 10:49 am
by Crystal
I have let my daughter read my wip and so far she loves it. However every time she reads something she points out that I don't use contractions much. I find myself typing out I am or he is or it is not and so on, but when I read it I read it as I'm or He's or isn't.

So which is better? Do I use the contractions or leave it as it is or does it even matter?

Silly question I know. :)

Re: I am vs. I'm and so on...

Posted: December 21st, 2009, 11:40 am
by polymath
Contractions are used in informal Standard Written or Spoken English, long since when a so-widely accepted dialect that contraction use isn't even considered dialect. Narrative voice has several subtle aesthetics that influence a story. Register (sociolinguistics) is one, formal/informal, superior to subordinate, subordinate to superior, peer to peer, indirect address/direct address, and relates to tone (attitude--objective/subjective) and tenor (strength of delivery) and mood (emotional), ie., commanding, imperative, woebegone, naive, sparkly, angry, reflective, and so on. In general, register varies according to situational use, not necessarily by user. Contraction use softens formality and often is used in neutral registers. Also, noncontracted words are often used for emphatic emphasis as well as for erudite speaking by rigid grammarians. Noncontracted speech has been seen quite frequently used in fiction by English as second language speakers.

Re: I am vs. I'm and so on...

Posted: December 21st, 2009, 12:16 pm
by SmurfHead
Not a stupid question at all!

One isn't better than the other, but I suspect that since you're adding contractions when you speak, the contractions might be better than "he is" or "she is"--which, you know, is why writers read their WIPs aloud. Sounds like you've already got a good ear for dialogue and narrative flow, though, since you're noticing subtle things like "he is" versus "he's."

Re: I am vs. I'm and so on...

Posted: December 21st, 2009, 1:55 pm
by CharleeVale
I found the same thing, so I had to change it up a bit.

There's a dichotomy between formal speech and informal speech in my WIP so I don't use them and use them respectively. Some people may argue that since it is fantasy you have to have a completely different feel and therefore NO contractions, (I have been told this) but I argue since that is the way we speak the people reading won't even notice.

CV

Re: I am vs. I'm and so on...

Posted: December 21st, 2009, 7:17 pm
by Kaitlyne
My guess is it depends on the voice you're going for and how formal you want it to sound. Typically not having contractions sounds weird to me (even in formal papers it sounds strange to my ears, though), but if that's the sound you're going for then it might be okay. I think the question is when you're daughter says that is she just making an observation, or is she saying it in a critical way. If it's critical, it might be worth getting a couple of more opinions on a section or two because it's possible that it's not working as you intended.

Re: I am vs. I'm and so on...

Posted: December 21st, 2009, 7:28 pm
by BransfordGroupie
I started out with the formal long hand version in my novel. When I went back and read some of my work I thought if felt unnatural and have since added quite a few contractions. When I received a couple of reviews there were no comment for or against the use of contractions .... except this one: "where're you sending me." That one provoked a cringe and a "I know it is dialogue but please please PLEASE don't use that one"... needless to say I changed it back.

Re: I am vs. I'm and so on...

Posted: December 21st, 2009, 8:23 pm
by Crystal
wow polymath that is a lot to chew on. :)

Smurfhead, thanks for telling me it isn't a stupid question. I feel like some of my questions are so beginner. lol.

CharleeVale and Kaitlyne, I think my wip is very informal all the way. It's being told in a first person perspective so everything you read is filtered through her thought process. She is definitely not a formal person. Thanks for your responses.

BransfordGroupie, that is funny!!

Thanks to everyone who has weighed in on this.

Re: I am vs. I'm and so on...

Posted: December 24th, 2009, 5:29 pm
by Scott
In my latest MS, I switch up depending on character perspective but rhythm almost always rules. I try not to use two of "he'd" or "she'd" in the same sentence or two close because I think it's an ugly sounding word, but I definitely switch up until it sounds right and fits the perspective.

Re: I am vs. I'm and so on...

Posted: December 30th, 2009, 6:03 am
by knight_tour
I use mainly non-contractions in prose and mostly contractions in dialogue. There are times when I feel the character will not use a contraction due to the specific emphasis they are using, but I feel that contractions are more realistic for dialogue.

Re: I am vs. I'm and so on...

Posted: January 12th, 2010, 6:58 pm
by LydiaSharp
There are so many things that factor into this. The main things for me are voice, mood, and flow. It's good to have another set of eyes look at your work. Sometimes you overuse things (or in your case, underuse them) without realizing it. Anything that distracts the reader from the story is a candidate for revision.

Re: I am vs. I'm and so on...

Posted: January 14th, 2010, 6:24 pm
by RachelBateman
I find myself doing this sometimes, too. I catch it a lot and put the contraction instead, so my mss are probably 50/50 contractions vs. not.

I DID read on one agent's blog (I can't remember whose right now) a while back that using NO contractions is considered an amateur move. But, that could just be the one agent's perspective.

Personally, I try to catch myself and put the contractions in because the writing seems more transparent that way.