Some people are under the impression that contractions should never occur in writing, but that belief is wrong. Unlike some of the most common contractions listed above, they are never used in formal writing. Most English teachers state that contractions should never be used in writing, at least in formal writing (see here, here, and here).
In highly formal writing, like an academic essay, grant proposal, or other work where it is necessary to sound professional, it is possible you will not want to use contractions at all. It is not incorrect to use such contractions in formal writing, but you should use them sparingly, since they will generally make your writing seem less than entirely formal.
Using contractions in formal writing is allowed, since they may make the writing seem more natural; writers are advised, however, to exercise discretion. It can be difficult to decipher if using contractions is permissible when writing a more formal piece. If your writing is formal, and you are unsure about the rules, your best option is to avoid using contractions. It is recommended that writers refrain from using contractions in formal essays, professional reports, and other academic writing; however, there is really no set hard-and-fast rule for when contractions are or are not allowed.
Using contractions in formal writing — like academic works, resumes, essays, or publications — is generally frowned upon, as some believe contractions can dilute the meaning of the claim or make writing appear too informal for the circumstances. While no strict rules in grammar restrict using contractions in specific formats, they are usually avoided in formal writing, such as scholarly essays, business proposals, or other professionally written documents. However, contractions that include nouns are far less common in writing than those that use pronouns, like I would, would, and her are. There are quite a few contractions in English, all made from common words.
In the above examples, the ones that are without a contraction simply do not sound like something that real people would say. For instance, in Texas and Georgia, some people are trying to get by with 4 word contractions, such as would not have you (you will not) or would have you allllve (you will all have) into their sentences. Some writers use less common contractions when they wish to present a specific speech style. Regardless of writings formality, writers may use contractions when they are writing dialogue or when documenting speech.
Even The Chicago Manual of Style recommends using contractions when writing, saying, Most types of writing benefit from using contractions (5.103). You may not think that contractions could ever have been used in literatures canon, but the conversational approach appears in masterpieces of literature, from Beowulf to Mauby-Dick, Great Expectations to Ulysses, modern best-sellers, and many others (see examples below). It helps to look at examples of contractions, so that you can apply proper usage and diction to your own writing.
By considering your writing context and your audience, you can avoid using informal contractions and properly employ them. Just because the writing is informal and there are proper basic words does not mean that contractions always make sense. Knowing where to place an apostrophe may seem difficult, but there is a fairly straightforward rule that works for any contraction.
The apostrophe takes over for any letters that were in the original word, but are not present in a contraction. The apostrophe is used when writing contractions–that is, the abbreviated forms of words that omit one or more letters.
There are a handful of circumstances where apostrophes are used to indicate omission of certain material, in cases which are not quite contractions. A handful of words that were contractions a long time ago are still written conventionally with apostrophes, although the longer form has more or less fallen out of usage.
In modern English, contractions are said to occur when parts of words (usually vowel sounds) fall out of the mouth, to be replaced with apostrophes in writing. English grammar uses contractions, or the compressed form of a group of words (or of an individual word), which leave out certain letters and sounds. To write a contraction, one typically needs to remove part of the word within a two-word phrase (such as a in You are), eliminate any spaces between these words, and replace the missing letters with apostrophes (You are).
If you are writing something extremely formal, you might want to avoid using contractions, except for cases such as aThe watch,a in which a complete sentencea(the watch) is really uncommon. While experts generally recommend against using Contractions in formal communications, you are likely to find Contractions used for verb phrases in work-related or casual conversations–or scenes such as this one in books–since the Contractions lend an easier, more casual tone. Of course, if your speech is more formal, like in a conference speech or addressing colleagues, you will have to decide case-by-case if a contraction is appropriate.
Contractions are best avoided in business documents, particularly if you are writing something serious and are not sure about the audience. In more formal writing assignments, like an academic report or a term paper, avoiding contractions is one way to set a more serious tone. However, we should still consider contractions when they do appear on the page, partly because they may impact our tone and register of our writing — and that, in turn, may be taken as indicating how seriously the reader should be taking it.
In literary writing, or informal writing (blog posts, texts, personal emails, and so on), writers are freer to use contractions however they feel appropriate. Contractions are an informal writing style, but nevertheless, they can feel much more natural when spoken, or when the narrative drives the narrative of a novel.
There are contractions…those wicked things that your English teacher told you to never, ever use in writing. Test out your sentences with and without contractions so that you have a better idea of how they flow together with your writing.