There is a problem with the English writing. Or more properly there is a problem when teaching to write in English. You see, we almost always try to teach people the “CORRECT WAY TO WRITE” in capital letters with underlining and bold… in other words, we focus on formal writing. Which is fine as far as it goes.
But that’s not the way people talk. At least not native English speakers. It’s boring and slow and the formal speech sounds unnatural. And there is a reason!
Formal speech does not use contractions. Avoid these very useful tools. (There are other mistakes with formal speech, but in this article I’m going to focus on contractions.)
When writing self-help books and other non-academic nonfiction, one of the tips given is to write as if you are speaking, not in “perfect”, “nose in the air” English. One of the characteristics of native conversational English is the use of contractions. If you’re writing fiction, you absolutely must use them if you expect to have a reasonable discourse from your characters.
Why do English speakers use contractions? And why should writers? The easiest explanation is to say that we are lazy. And to some extent that is true. But there is something more than laziness.
Contractions usually occur when a sound (ie a letter or diphthong) is difficult to pronounce or doesn’t fit into the flow of a word. The easiest illustration of this is not in English at all. Welsh (a Celtic language that has influenced English) has what are called mutations formally built into the language. For example, the letter “C” (for example, Cymru) is always difficult. But pronouncing a hard letter after a vowel is a great way to twist your tongue. So the letter mutates to a “G” (eg o’Gymru) which is much softer. In fact, there are three variations depending on how soft the letter needs to be. All in the name of enunciation!
English is the same… only less obvious and formal. Lyrics are dropped in spoken English largely because they get in the way. So, for example, “no” becomes “no”.
There are three main forms of contractions in spoken English.
The first type of contraction is the mid-dropped vowel. The most common are found with negatives (does not become no, does not become is not, etc.).
The second type of contraction is the initial vowel omitted when two words are mixed. For example, “is” often becomes simply “is” or “he is” becomes “he is”. But it can also occur when a consonant is aspirated (softened) in natural speech. In many English accents, the letter “h” disappears, so “hello” is written as “‘it” to indicate that the initial “H” is not heard.
The third type is a mutated syllable. For example, “no” is never “no”…it becomes “no”. Why? Because for a native English speaker “Willn’t” is just as hard to say as “Will not”. And much more difficult than “I won’t.” This usually occurs when the entire medium is dropped. In many English accents, “will not” is pronounced closer to “wi’nt”. “F’c’scle” or “Fo’c’scle” (ie Forecastle in correct English) is another example of this phenomenon.