8 May 2011

Kim Bowman and Contractions...

Please welcome Author and editor, Kim Bowman today as she talk's about contractions.
No! Not THOSE kind of contractions, ladies :-) 

I Feel a Contraction Coming On

If I had to pick the one mistake I see writers make over and over it would be that they don’t use contractions. I’m serious. This is by far the biggest correction I make when editing a manuscript. Was not to wasn’t, is not to isn’t, are not to aren’t…the list is endless.

This is jarring to read, it interrupts the flow of the story, and it makes the writing seem choppy. Fiction is supposed to sound natural, and when we speak, we use contractions. Here are some examples from my book Wayward Soul. Read them out loud and see which example sounds better:

A - Please do not go to work. Stay here. Stay safe.

B - Please don’t go to work. Stay here. Stay safe.

A - “Well, we cannot have that, Lieutenant Nash.”

B - “Well, we can’t have that, Lieutenant Nash.”

A - Zanna took his face in her hands. “No, you did not scare me at all.”

B - Zanna took his face in her hands. “No, you didn’t scare me at all.”

A - “Please do not cry. I hate it when you cry. I was a jerk.”

B - “Please don’t cry. I hate it when you cry. I was a jerk.”

Even if you read these examples to yourself, the sentences that don’t have contractions probably felt awkward. The others, more natural and easier to follow. I guarantee this small change will make a world of difference in your manuscript.

On the other side of the coin, sometimes it’s better not to use a contraction. For instance, if you want to add emphasis like in this example from my short story The Ballad of Brenda and Willard:

A - “I cannot believe that you care so little about me that you don’t even remember our anniversary. How dare you. Our anniversary is not March tenth.”

B - “I can’t believe that you care so little about me that you don’t even remember our anniversary. How dare you. Our anniversary isn’t March tenth.”

Either scenario above would work, however example A clearly helps show the character’s emotion and anger just a tad better. This is part of developing your voice as a writer. Just don’t overdo it.

No matter how many times you edit your manuscript, you’ll likely miss some of these. The best way to find them, and avoid spending hours reading and re-reading your story, is to use FIND and REPLACE feature in your word processing program like this:

Whala! Simple. Easy. You can repeat this process to fix any words that should be contracted.

Another alternative is to just use the Find function and search for the word NOT, for example, then click the Reading Highlight button and Highlight all.

 This is the quickest way to find words that should be turned into contractions, but it’s certainly not the easiest way to fix them because once you click in the document and make a change, the highlights disappear and you have to repeat the process. However, this will without a doubt ensure you haven’t missed anything. So my advice is to use the table below to help you figure out which words should be contracted, use the Find/Replace function to fix them, and then use the Find function with Highlight to double check yourself.

  • Full form      Contracted
  • Not               -n’t
  • Let us            let’s
  • Am                -’m
  • Are                -’re
  • Is                   -’s
  • Does              -’s
  • Has                -’s
  • Have              -’ve
  • Had                -’d
  • Did                 -’d
  • Would            -’d
  • Will                -’ll
This list isn’t all inclusive and there may still be some contractions that you miss, but just this one change will make your manuscript much better and more appealing to those publishers when you send it out. :-)

Wayward Soul blurb:

When Zanna Seoul accidentally causes the death of a fellow spirit guide’s charge while trying to save the life of the man she loves, she is stripped of her position and banished to Earth to die. In the spirit world, one doesn’t mess with what’s written. With Zanna no longer guiding him and his memory of her erased, Owen Nash is left wide open as the target of the vengeful spirit guide who feels he’s been wronged. A guide who also happens to be a werewolf. Once on Earth, Zanna refuses to stand by and watch Owen die, so she intervenes again, setting off a chain of events that could mean death for all of them if she doesn’t go back and undo the mess she’s made. Can Zanna succeed before the werewolf does?

Kim Bowman lives in Indiana, where she was born and raised. For the past eleven years, she has been married to her best friend, Tony. She has four wonderful, awesome children. Three she was lucky enough to inherit from her husband and one she was given by the grace of God. They live on a small farm with two of their four kids, five horses, and two dogs. Kim works as an editor for Evernight Publishing and indulges in her passion of writing when she can.

Kim's Blog
Kim's Facebook
Kim's Twitter
Buy Wayward Soul HERE ~ HERE ~ HERE

Please come back tomorrow when Kim talks about Variety is the Spice of Writing

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nothing makes a book less realistic than dialogue without contractions. Unless, of course, it's part of a character's overall characterization, as with Data of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame - an android who could not use a contraction.