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  1. Ian Watts wrote on

    Great post! I’d’ve have thought there’s a follow-on post in it …

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      LOL. Now I can’t even think of a clever contraction to reply with! ;-)

  2. Anna Butler wrote on

    It’s funny, so often I’ll write a page of copy, or an email, comment, etc. and write my words out in full. Then reading back through I realise how stuffy and rigid it sounds and furiously get happy with the apostrophe key!

    But I definitely agree there’s a time and context for contractions, and I think your list does a good job of explaining these… although I’d still be inclined to use the 2 inner circles for any writing – corporate or not. I think the way we communicate is changing and becoming far more relaxed, so what might have been a bit too casual 5-10 years ago, is now OK.

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      Yeah, I think the dark orange circle applies to most. But there are still some extra-formal contexts that would be constrained to just the red, I think.

  3. Lucy Smith wrote on

    This is great! It is often hard to know if it is best to use a contraction or not, especially if you are not sure just how formal the client expects to sound…;-)

    Seriously, very nice work. I’m going to print it and stick it on the wall.

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      Awesome! I’m a pin-up! ;-) Thanks Lucy.

  4. Belinda Weaver @ Copywrite Matters wrote on

    Oh God, not ANOTHER INFOGRAPHIC!

    Joookes. All credit to you for creating one that is actually original.

    I love using contractions and liberally splash them through my copy. Where appropriate of course. I’m lucky not to have to write super-formal copy but I’ve had more than one conversation explaining that using contractions in website copy isn’t unprofessional. They make it natural and conversational which, in turn, is friendly and readable.

    High school English classes have a lot to answer for sometimes.

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      Thanks Belinda. You’re 100% right about English teachers having a lot to answer for. I’ve had soooooo many conversations with clients, trying to convince them that contractions are OK.

      In fact, I originally had a small red dot in the middle labelled “Your high-school English teacher”, but I didn’t want to muddy the waters.

  5. Erin wrote on

    Hmm, this has got me thinking! I’m curious how you came up with the circles … are these your own observations?

    I used to teach academic writing at uni, and something like this would’ve been very useful to share with my students. The rule of “never use contractions in academic writing” is shifting slowly, and I’m wondering if some of the inner circle words would be acceptable now.

    Definite food for thought! I will think of you every time I see a contraction as I wonder “Which circle?” and “Is it appropriate?” :)

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      Hi Erin. Yeah, just my experience.

      Re academic writing: It’s been a while since I did my Masters, but I’m sure I would have used contractions in my essays and thesis. And I KNOW I would if I were writing them now!

  6. Amanda Gonzalez wrote on

    Love it, G. Thanks for putting this great guide together.

    Sometimes, mind, writing the words out in full can be far more powerful, regardless of hipster level. It really is just taking a mo’ to decide what you’re trying to say (and how you’re trying to make your reader feel) instead of immediately going for the contraction.

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      Amanda!!!!! That. Is. Preposterous. ;-)

  7. Sarah Mitchell wrote on

    Now why didn’t I think of this? It’s because I’m too busy adding contractions to marketing copy from fuddy-duddy corporate types. I LOVE contractions. Maybe your next infographic can tackle the hyphen, another misunderstood part of the English language.

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      I actually first came up with this infographic idea about 4 years ago. But I originally planned it as a series of cups, one inside the other. The idea was that the smaller the cup, the fewer contractions you’d fit in it. Small = more formal. In the end, I decided it would just confuse matters. Especially when venn diagrams exist specifically to illustrate this sort of information! ;-)

  8. Kimota wrote on

    I’m a big fan of contractions – when used correctly. They allow copy to read more fluidly, like speech, instead of throwing speed bumps in the way of clarity.

    However so often they are used incorrectly by either contracting the wrong words or creating mistaken language through common misuse. Such as using “here’s” when it should be “Here are…” etc. And also the dreaded “I would of…” “I would’ve” mix up.

    So contractions ain’t always easy.

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      Very true Jonathan. It’s funny, that “here’s” example of yours is one that I think is very close to being acceptable, even though it’s grammatically incorrect. For example, “Here’s just a few examples…” reads nicely. But “Here are just a few examples…” is a little more clumsy. My money’s on that being considered acceptable within the decade!

      1. Erin wrote on

        I’m with you, Glenn … I reckon “here’s a few …” is on the way to being acceptable. And it makes me feel better, because I was interviewed in a national publication a few years ago, and I was quoted (in big quotes) as saying “There’s not enough people …” My mum pointed out to me that it’s ‘wrong’ (I didn’t even think twice of it until she mentioned it).

        On the prescriptivist-descriptivist continuum, I’m down towards the descriptivist end …

        PS. Another word I didn’t see on your infographic: “Let’s” …

        1. Glenn Murray wrote on

          Ha! I use it all the time when I speak. And often go to use it when I write. Even asked on G+ the other day what everyone thought about it.

          Definitely agree “Let’s” should be there. Ian’s going to kill me! :-(

          Oh, and I’m definitely a descriptive grammarian…

      2. Anna Butler wrote on

        I’m always picking myself up on here’s/there’s (eg. “There’s a number of ways to…”) because it really is how we’re speaking these days – grammatically correct, or not.

        It’s one of those English grammar rules I wouldn’t be too upset to see change in line with the fluidity of the language.

        1. Glenn Murray wrote on

          Well, we all three agree. It’s bound to happen! ;-)

  9. Fred Schebestsa wrote on

    I always get these wrong. I am going to use this as a resource when we get into a debate about grammar in our copywriting for our new tv ads.

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      Ah TV. There you have even MORE freedom with contractions. Because people can’t SEE the contractions, you can use things like “she’d’ve” and “I’d’ve”. On the formal-to-informal scale, they actually fit in the outer circle, but I removed them because they’re too visually confusing to include in any copy the audience will READ.

      Thanks for reading and commenting too. :-)

  10. Charles Cuninghame wrote on

    Great stuff Glenn. Would you agree that spoken word is more permissive of contractions than written word? E.g you could say “What’re your options?” in a radio or TV ad, but you probably wouldn’t write it in a print ad?

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      Ha! Read this immediately after replying to Fred’s comment above. Definitely agree. You can get away with more because people hear spoken copy as they hear normal spoken English. They don’t have the same preconceptions about what it should be. (Plus they don’t get distracted trying to deconstruct complex contractions like “she’d’ve”.)

  11. Doc Sheldon wrote on

    I have to say, I’m a little disappointed.

    You can bet if it came from Dallas instead of Sydney, that infographic would have had “ya’ll” in the inner circle. :p

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      LOL. Well spotted Doc. Sadly, I have no idea which circle that would fit in. Maybe I need a US version too. Perhaps even a state by state version!

  12. Adam Franklin wrote on

    G’day Glenn,

    Thanks for giving us writers permission to use contractions…!! And not feel guilty ;-)

    ‘Proper’ English is rarely the most effective way to write, especially when you’ve got real people as your audience and not your English teacher!

    Over the years, you’ve taught me to unlearn what my English teachers told me, and start writing for human beings. And for the most part that means writing like I speak, and this include loads of contractions.

    The grammar police will occasionally knock on my door, but at least they can understand what I’ve written. Thanks for taking a load off my mind.

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      LOL. Yep, it’s always better to be understood. Even if it is by the grammar police! ;-)

      No question, conversational English is better in almost all contexts. The formality may vary, but it should always be conversational.

      Cheers mate.

  13. Bill Harper wrote on

    I once wrote something like “You’re in safe hands. And with this insurance, so’s your car.”

    Someone flagged the “so’s” and asked if we were inventing new words. Tried to explain it’s a contraction of “so is”, but they still wouldn’t let it through.

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      Really! Oh man!

      LOL: “wouldn’t LET it through.” That applies equally to the understanding and the contraction.

  14. Paul Hassing wrote on

    Thanks to you, my contractions are now less than 12 minutes apart. You are the copywriter I hope to grow into one day. Kind regards and keep ’em coming! P. :)

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      You are too kind, sir! And don’t forget to breathe. It’s all about the breathing (or so my wife tells me). ;-)

  15. Doc Sheldon wrote on

    Every copywriter knows that the voice in which they write needs to match the audience they’re writing to. Like most, I think it’s safe to say that my English teachers and profs. over the years would have veins bursting in their foreheads if they saw the way I write on occasion.
    But there’s times that m’ style needs to be a bit butchered, ’cause m’ readers feel more comfortable with it. Ya’ll prob’ly do the same thing.
    (Okay, you’re right… I may abuse the privilege.)

  16. Desolie wrote on

    Hear! Hear! – that’s about the only thing left to say.

    It all depends on the context and your audience.

    Thanks, Glenn, for such a clear picture.

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      Thanks Desolie. Glad you liked it. And as always, definitely agree, it’s all about your audience…

  17. Micky Stuivenberg wrote on

    Great resource, Glenn.

    For me, there’s one group of contractions from your outer circle that I’d never use in writing though, however casual the publication or situation, because they look/sound strange to me.

    They’re when’ll, where’ll, how’ll and why’ll – and especially that last one, why’ll.

    I can’t explain why. Have you yourself actually used those in writing before?

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