Quick Tips: Using Contractions Correctly
Contractions are useful in both spoken and written language. They save time, use fewer letters than full words, and help us to sound less formal when the situation calls for it. Contractions are combinations of two words and, in most cases, the apostrophe indicates where letters are omitted. Here’s a handy list of contractions.
Common contractions Do + not = Don’t (The apostrophe tells us that a letter, O, has been removed.) Are/is + not = Aren’t/isn’t They + are = They’re It + is/has = It’s Could/Would/Should + have = Could’ve/Would’ve/Should’ve Could/Would/Should + not = Couldn’t/Wouldn’t/Shouldn’t We + are = We’re Will + not = Won’t (This is the slight exception to the rule that the apostrophe replaces the dropped letters. With this contraction, the spelling changes completely.)
Less common contractions Shall + not = Shan’t Might + not = Mightn’t You + all = Y’all (slang) Am/is + not = Ain’t (slang)
When to Use Contractions We use contracted words all the time in speech. This is natural because these habits help us to communicate quickly. Unfortunately, habits and tendencies that are common in speech are not always optimal in writing, especially when writing for formal situations. For this reason, we encourage our users to avoid using contractions when writing for work, school, and/or any formal environment.