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From Karen Saunders

Your Branding, Marketing & Self-Publishing Coach

When to Use Contractions in a Book Manuscript

I recently received a query from a subscriber who asked me to weigh in on a contraction conundrum. This author wanted to know if it was acceptable to use contractions in a book manuscript. I asked my teammate and award-winning book editor Barbara McNichol for her take on this issue.


Here’s the definition of a contraction: Two words that have been contracted (pulled together) into one word. E.g., let’s (let us), he’d (he had), we’re (we are), etc.

This author wrote:

My latest (4th) book is coming out in September. I just got the edits back from my publisher. I got a lot of glowing remarks and one editor even said, “I’m amazed at how few changes or suggestions we came up with.” BUT the one thing they changed is this: They took out every contraction in the book. Literally, every “you’ll” and “let’s” and “she’s” was wiped from existence. 

This is my first book with this particular publisher. None of the others I’ve worked with were this anal about contractions. My feeling is when I want to relate to parents (his target audience) and be more conversational, I tend to use a contraction. When I’m giving advice or explaining a principle, it tends to be more formal. In my opinion, removing every contraction takes away some of the flow of a sentence. 

Many of the recent bestseller nonfictions on my shelf contain contractions, and I can’t find agreement online on the issue. Can you give me your thoughts on this issue?

I responded:

I agree with you; it’s acceptable to use contractions in your writing. As you describe your book, it has a casual discourse and contractions should not distract the reader.

Here’s what Barbara wrote:

In most nonfiction books, contractions actually aid readability because they help move the reader’s eye faster than without them. They help to set a casual rather than formal tone and even add authenticity, particularly in dialogue. Listen to people when they speak. They use contractions most of the time.

Yes, contractions improve the flow of the sentence, too, and are commonly found in formal writing. As both a reader and an editor of nonfiction books, I prefer them!

What advice would YOU give about using contractions in a book manuscript?