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Contractions and writing style

Discussion in 'General Book Discussion' started by Miss Shelf, Apr 6, 2006.

  1. Miss Shelf

    Miss Shelf New Member

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    I was wondering if it bothers anyone else when an author shifts between using contractions such as "aren't", "won't", "I'm", etc. and using whole words-"am not", "will not", "I am"? I always thought that for most casual conversations, people only use the whole words when they're trying to emphasize something, such as "I will not do that". It bothers me when I'm reading a conversation and the author shifts between using contractions and using whole words, when there isn't any indication of emphasis in the conversation. Am I being too nitpicky? :confused:
     
  2. TerishD

    TerishD New Member

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    Reply

    It bothers me when I notice, but bothers me more when the author points out that their characters are speaking a certain way (like the episode of "Star Trek Next Generation" when Data says that he does not use contractions while another character does). I believe the use of contractions is more of a state of mind than a speaking style. Contractions are from a busy mind while those that think before they speak tend to use whole words. Thus changing in speaking styles could be clues from the author about the mental state of the character.
     
  3. Miss Shelf

    Miss Shelf New Member

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    You're right to a point, but when the author has the styles change in the course of one conversation, when there is no reason for it, it's distracting. Look at the difference between these two sentences:

    "You don't know what you're talking about. If you paid more attention, you would know that I do not always speak this way in casual conversation" -this sounds like someone's trying to assert their domination in a vaguely threatening manner. This is OK with me if it's in the context of the scene.

    "You don't know what you're talking about. If you paid more attention, you'd know I don't always speak this way in casual conversation" -sounds like friends are talking. It's when the contractions are dropped in a conversation like this that the dialogue becomes distracting to me.

    I bring this up here instead of Writers' Block because I'm currently reading a book that has these confusing uses of contractions, and I was wondering if it bothers anyone else.
     
  4. Mari

    Mari New Member

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    Sometimes a syllable or two needs to be added or contracted to preserve a rhythm that the author has going. I can't speak for the author you're currently reading, but you might try reading a passage out loud to see if that's what's going on.
     
  5. Tiffany

    Tiffany New Member

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    I've only noticed this type of thing lately-- I've been reading a lot of Faulkner. It got my attention because most of the time he doesn't use apostrophes in his contractions but does in possessives. That's what gets me. I understand the whole modernist notion of creating space in/through a text, and Im fine without apostrophes, or at least Ive gotten used to missing them. But I dont understand why hed choose to use them in one situation and not in another. Its irritating, huh?
     
  6. ValkyrieRaven88

    ValkyrieRaven88 New Member

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    It depends on which characters are saying it. If it's a person who is very formal (I have several, as I write about vampires) it makes sense for them to say "are not" instead of "aren't." If it's a teenaged kid, unless she is a genius, I find it hard to believe that she's being all proper about it. So yeah, I don't notice it unless they're inconsistent with the character.
     

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