Use contractions for realistic dialogue
On July 11, 2022 | 0 Comments | Writing tips |

Well-crafted dialogue sounds the way people speak in real life, and in real life people almost always use contractions.

Quick refresher: A contraction is when an apostrophe is used to shorten two words into one. For example:

  • Did not becomes didn’t
  • Is not becomes isn’t
  • Do not becomes don’t

Read the following out loud:

  1. A) I am so happy that Gloria came to my party.
  2. B) I’m so happy that Gloria came to my party.
  1. A) We have already seen that movie three times.
  2. B) We’ve already seen that movie three times.
  1. A) There has not been a bear sighting in that park for years.
  2. B) There hasn’t been a bear sighting in that park for years.

Both A and B are grammatically correct in each of the above, but when I read them out loud, the A examples sound a bit odd.

Here is a snippet of dialogue from a novel I read recently, with a couple words changed.

“Where are you two from?” Derrick asked.

“I am from Iowa. She is from Florida,” the taller woman said.

“That is interesting. I am from Oregon,” Derrick said.

“Are you having a nice time at the party?” the shorter woman asked.

“Yes I am, although I am curious as to how everyone knows the host,” Derrick said.

Sounds weird, right? If the people in this conversation are from Iowa, Florida and Oregon, the dialogue doesn’t ring true.

Compare the above to this:

“Where are you two from?” Derrick asked.

“I’m from Iowa. She’s from Florida,” the blonde woman said.

“That’s interesting. I’m from Oregon,” Derrick said.

“Are you having a nice time at the party?” the brunette woman asked.

“Yes I am, although I’m curious as to how everyone knows the host,” Derrick said.

See (hear) the difference? An apostrophe is tiny, but its effect is significant!

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