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Alley

Contractions or no contractions

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I have a character that is a Lady, and I plan to make a point not to use contractions for her. However, I am unsure how far to go with this. The story is written in the first person, and I am uncertain if I should keep the no contractions to dialog or if I should make it a point in the character's POV. This is a two POV book if that helps with your answer. What do all of you think? 

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Since it's in first person, I'd say you shouldn't use contractions in her POV at all.  In first person, she's telling the story, and if she wouldn't use contractions in speech, she wouldn't use them in her thoughts. 

 

And I used a lot of contractions in those two sentences :D

 

Hope that helps!  :)

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Agree with HK1. If she opposes the use of contractions, then when she tells her story, she would not use them. Go all the way with this. 

 

Question: at what point in her life did she decide that contractions were not appropriate? If she's done this since childhood, if that is something her parents instilled in her, and she has made a conscious decision to continue; then she will be consistent. If it was something she decided as an adult, depending on her age and her will power, she might slip up occasionally and internally berate herself. 

 

Either way, she might internally comment occasionally on others using contractions. She might wonder if it were such a bad thing or not. This is something you can use in your character development. 

 

This could contrast well with your other narrator's speech patterns.

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In a book I read, one character never used contractions unless she got upset. In two of my books, I made one of the characters never talk in contractions unless she got upset or excited. Not sure if this helps, but. . . :D

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11 hours ago, Alley said:

I have a character that is a Lady, and I plan to make a point not to use contractions for her. However, I am unsure how far to go with this. The story is written in the first person, and I am uncertain if I should keep the no contractions to dialog or if I should make it a point in the character's POV. This is a two POV book if that helps with your answer. What do all of you think? 

My grandmother was as ladylike as humanly possible. It wasn't just the way she spoke. It was how she presented herself and reacted to others. (Only person I ever knew he didn't even try a cigarette, an alcoholic drink ever, or who wouldn't even use a semi-swear, like darn or poop.) The dignity in her including letting others behave as they were, instead of demanding they act like her. (Her big brother and little sister could out-drink college students at a kegger. Her two sisters were also smokers. She never belittled them, or even thought less of them for such things. However, one does NOT curse in front of her if one is her child or grandchild. Thems the rules. Oh, and she'd correct my "thems the rules" when I was a kid, but not when I became an adult.)

With that, it strikes me a lady telling a story would try her very best to use the exact words others used in dialog, out of respect for the ones speaking. I could see your lady using contractions in dialog. It honors the people who said the words.

 

Now you didn't ask this, but just in case. My grandmother used facial expressions or sign language, (usually fingers pinched together making a line in the air), to not say a curse word or semi-curse word. Then the listener could fill in their own blank, while Gram omitted words she would not say ever. It was never done to make the other person seem less than her. It was all respect, but her own line in the sand. Usually we all giggled when she did that. Then, she'd pat us on the hand, and laugh too.

There are two kinds of ladies -- the kind that makes a show of it and the kind that shows respect through it. It's up to you what kind of Lady you're writing.

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You know, Spaulding has a point, there really are two types of ladies out there, and it is up to you what kind of lady that you choose.  Good point, Spaulding.

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I agree with everyone above; Spaulding made a very interesting point. But, yeah, I think if your lady isn't planning on using contractions when she speaks, she certainly wouldn't use them in her thoughts. It just wouldn't match up! 

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You could also have her use contractions in her thoughts but not in her more formal speech. 

That can't be right. "Surely that is not correct," she said.

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36 minutes ago, Erin Cook said:

she certainly wouldn't use them in her thoughts.

And I wonder if she would use them when quoting others. I suspect she would simple say the full words and keep going without missing a beat. 

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My aliens couldn't use contractions, was difficult to keep up with. But one you start, don't stop. 

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Do other languages use contractions?  Is English peculiar this way?  We see their use as informal and sometimes less educated. How do other peoples see them?

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Spanish has a couple combinations: "al" ("a el"="to the") and "del" ("de el"="of/from the"). According to the internet, German has a bundle of them. French seems to have mandatory contractions.

 

That's a quick search.

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8 hours ago, carolinamtne said:

Spanish has a couple combinations: "al" ("a el"="to the") and "del" ("de el"="of/from the"). According to the internet, German has a bundle of them. French seems to have mandatory contractions.

 

That's a quick search.

She's right; I am learning several languages and French is one of them; there are a lot of contractions in French. :)

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21 hours ago, Nicola said:

Do other languages use contractions?  Is English peculiar this way?  We see their use as informal and sometimes less educated. How do other peoples see them?

 

Well, then, I think we can agree that other people don't look down on them. 🧐

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Ally, the contractions/no contractions is a great way to differentiate a character. In my mind, the use of contractions in speech is a little more informal, indicating a character who is maybe a bit more easy going. Someone who never uses contractions strikes me as a more formal person. But there are a few other possibilities. She may be trying to project an image of "high society". Or, I envision someone for whom English is a second language not using contractions, at least not as readily as a native speaker.

 

I have a character in one of my (fantasy) stories who is speaks English, but is not facile enough in it to use contractions.

 

In general, I think the way you have your characters speak, if consistent, can add a whole new dimension to their persona.

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Alley: It would depend on the characters background. Is she 'high society' or is she 'middle class' or is she like the Eliza Doolittle character at the beginning of "My Fair Lady"?  The way a person talks reflects their background, whether he or she realizes it or not.

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Formal French ( Parisian) drops vowels from articles if the next sound is a vowel. The masculine article le is merged into the preposition aux, contrasting with the feminine à la

 

I say that a Lady who didn't use contractions in speech probably wouldn't use them in thoughts, but would accurately report the speech of others, except when their speech was improper: contractions but not cussin' .

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