When to Use CONTRACTIONS in Writing for JOB Applications and Business Communications


Today, I’m answering a question that I’ve
been asked many many times and that is can you use contractions in written
English? well can you? to find out stay tuned Hello and welcome to LetThemTalk so
can you use contractions in written English? The answer is yes I’ll say it
twice – yes I’ll say it thrice – yes! most contractions are acceptable even in
formal writing. Absolutely you can there is a myth that you shouldn’t use
contractions in writing that’s not true and if anybody tells you that then you
should ignore their advice even if it’s your teacher. Shakespeare used
contractions Dickens used contractions Mark Twain used contractions George
Orwell who in “Politics and the English language” wrote “contractions
helped close the distance between writer and reader”. Yes and this is true for
almost all types of English including formal written English including
CVs emails covering letters business communication.
now there are one or two possible exceptions where convention dictates
that you should use fewer contractions and we’ll look at that in a moment.
There are also one or two types of contractions that you might want to
avoid sometimes and we’ll look at that too. So when you are writing English the
rule is write for the reader, yes that’s right, write for the reader
and if you bear this in mind then you’ll have no doubts when writing. So
what do I mean by this? When you are writing, how do you want your words to be
said in the head of the reader this will of course depend on what you are writing
if you’re having an informal chat with your friends or if you’re up
applying for a job or if it’s an academic paper it’s going to be
different in each case but the same rule applies write for the reader then use
your ear and your instinct to decide when to contract. So if you’re chatting
with your friends you might use slang colloquial words and that’s perfectly
ok in formal English you won’t do this but yes you can still use contractions.
So don’t write “I am writing for the position of Finance Director I have got
five years experience” do right “I’m writing for the position of finance
director I’ve got five years experience” sounds more natural and this is
what your reader will want to read don’t write “Do you not agree?” It sounds
strange do right “Don’t you agree?” Don’t write “it is important, is it not?”
that’s weird do right “it’s important isn’t it” don’t write
“can we not decide tomorrow?” bizarre do write “can’t we decide tomorrow?” don’t
write “let us look at another example” do write “let’s look at another example”
it sounds better. Don’t write “we are supposed to learn
this by heart, are we not?” Do write “we’re supposed to
learn this by heart, aren’t we?” That sounds better, sounds more natural.
Don’t write “I shall be available next week” do write “I’ll be available next
week” of course if you want to stress WILL or SHALL (because we could use SHALL
here in formal English) and for the difference between WILL and SHALL we
have a video about that and I’ll put link in the description, then don’t
contract. “I confirm that I SHALL be available next week but only from
Tuesday onwards…” that’s ok I’m stressing it because I want to
emphasize I SHALL. So write for the reader. Write how you want the words to
be read in the head of the reader if you don’t want them to read the uncontracted
words then don’t contract but in fluent speech it’s used most of the time and so
it should be in formal writing. Now some types of English are more formal than
others. In formal academic writing a legal text or something like an article
in a medical journal when you want to slow down the reader avoid any
possibility of ambiguity and get them to linger on every word you might contract
much less or perhaps not at all in a legal document, though there is some
dispute about that, if you’re writing a notice or a warning sign then you
probably won’t use contractions so for example “The establishment IS NOT
responsible for any damage theft or loss of your items” instead of “the
establishment isn’t responsible…” So you’re slowing it down and stressing
every word so don’t contract write for the reader. Remember there is no Academy
for the English language. Other languages such as French, German, Spanish have
their own Academy in the English language there are style guides but that
is all they are – style guides. At the end of the day you have to use your instinct
when to contract but certainly there are no rules against using the most common
contractions. Now in business English in a cover letter or job application or
all other forms of formal English you should contract business is about
engaging with other people making a connection with the reader so I strongly
advise you to use contractions in a natural way as you do in speech. Now
these contractions are fine in formal writing and almost all situations except,
as I said, in a legal document this is our “green list”: I’M, WE’RE, HE’S, SHE’S
CAN’T, DON’T, WON’T, I’LL. some contractions I would avoid in academic
writing this is our “yellow list” WOULD’VE, SHOULD’VE COULD’VE MIGHT’VE
however in business English job applications they are generally.
Finally here is our “red list” never use informal contractions in formal writing
so never use GONNA, WANNA, GOTTA, DUNNO it’s okay with friends or instant
messaging if you are quoting dialog but otherwise avoid it.
So just to recap: In formal English you’re going to write in a more formal
language use a rich elegant vocabulary full of well-chosen adjectives avoid
slang but as for contractions yes it’s ok. In legal English or academic
English use your own judgement but you will probably contract much less. So
there you are I hope that answers your question and
remember the one rule above all others: Write for the reader you are beautiful but can we not have a little quiet around here we are
trying to work let us consider the case of the panda
bear it is a beautiful animal, is it not? I am right, am I not? I shall be much
obliged if you are here on time

36 thoughts on “When to Use CONTRACTIONS in Writing for JOB Applications and Business Communications

  1. It's great to see you again, I've always had doubts, I appreciate the contractions, I'm going to use them without fear. Great master Gideon. always have inspirations in 2019!

  2. Great video, as usual 🙂
    Hey, about the "red list": so, is it ok at least in one situation to use "ain't"??
    I learnt' that a long time ago with a song ("He ain't heavy…") but my American friends laughed at me when I used it :-$ (ha! some friends! 😀 )

  3. Thank you Gideon, great video!.

    As for the the word that, when it's a conjuction, should we write or omit it? In normal speech, it's almost always omitted. No one says "I think that you're right", we just say "I think you're right" . That is, that clause have no that. In formal writing, should we include that?

    Thank you.

  4. Great.
    My daughter has an exams tomorrow can anybody help in this question pls .
    The project will be carried out in a …… Of 5 years .
    1- space .
    2- timing.
    Urgent pls .

  5. I've just realised why I had most of my applications rejected when I ended my covering letter with "I betcha gonna wanna gimme the job".

  6. Great!! Lemme just tell you that my life would’ve been poorer if I hadn’t met you!!
    (Wouldn’t you write it different?! 😜👌🏼)

  7. Hello my beloved Director and THANK YOU for coming back " safe and sound " with another stimulating video . I would like to start by saying once for good that your videos are " just the ticket " for me because i need to " up my English game " and i wouldn't miss them " for all the tea in China " sweetheart. You see , attending your videos is always like taking a deep dive into an ocean full of knowledge and wisdom ……. You have helped me in more ways than simply enriching my basic knowledge. You have also helped shaped me into the person i am today and for that i will always be thankful ! I'm quite convinced that , just " once in a blue moon " does a wonderful teacher like you come along and " not gonna lie " , you really know how to bring out the best in students , trust me honey …..! By the way ,please " keep me in the loop " if you have a new video. Next , you find that the students you're inspiring are the ones that end up inspiring you … ?????!!!!! Well , i'll " take it with a pinch of salt ". I would rather say THANK YOU for being my BIGGEST INSPIRATION and MOTIVATION throughout my GOOD and BAD times ….

  8. Both interesting and instructive as usual. It's always a great pleasure for me to watch your intelligent lessons.

  9. Yes, it is true that we need to keep this in our mind that we need to write for the reader. Nevertheless, we write as we speak. Good session sir

  10. Thank you
    You are the best teacher. I’ve been at USA for 10 years and still need your advice in learning English?
    Could you please tell me how can I improve my writing? I have problem in writing. I use basic vocabulary when I write essays or research paper. I try to use advance vocabulary but the sentence doesn’t seem smooth for the reader.
    Any tips for me please. Could you suggest books for reading to improve my language? I like science and biology and have enough vocabulary for this field. I need vocabulary for daily usage in academic level.

  11. Hi … I consider myself a good English speaker. I live in an English speaking country. Sometimes, I dislike people that say, that in order to speak "perfect" English you have to get rid of your accent. For me that's virtually impossible. People can tell I'm not a local but can understand me perfectly well…

  12. Could you help me with the following? Which option is correct, when we agree?
    "She dislikes tea" – a) So do I. Or b) Neither do I

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