Contracted Form Quibble


Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 12

Thread: Contracted Form Quibble

  1. #1

    Contracted Form Quibble

    I only suggest avoiding one form--"I'd," "he'd," "we'd," etc.--because "I'd" can mean both "I had" and "I would," and readers can get well into a sentence before learning which meaning it is. Often it's not the one they thought it was.
    Source: On Writing Well by William Zinsser.

    For the life of me I couldn't grasp what was the problem he had with this. Yes, "I'd" can mean both "I would" and "I had," but what follows can never be the same, right?

    -I would like a coffee. / I had like a coffee. (No can do.)
    -I had taken some medication. / I would taken some medication. (Again, no.)

    Maybe I'm missing something. Are there instances where this specific contracted form could be confusing?

    Also,

    ...don't invent contractions like "could've." They cheapen your style.
    Source: On Writing Well by William Zinsser.

    This is the first I've read that could've (probably also should've as well) is incorrect.

    Another thing: if you're placing quotation marks around a word or a term inside the sentence, shouldn't the comma or a period come after the closing of the quotation rather than inside the quotation marks?

  2. #2
    Google shows 24 million hits for "could've", and one of them says the word dates to 1880. So I don't think you are going to be the first to invent it.
    Looking for people to beta a chapter or more of my book Modern Punctuation and Grammar: Tools for Better Writing. Go Hidden Content
    As always, useful information you can't find anywhere else.

    Hidden Content

  3. #3
    Member MzSnowleopard's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Location
    Sioux City, IA
    Posts
    920
    Blog Entries
    48
    Talk with me about William Zinsser's On Writing Well, it's one of the text books for the course with Long Ridge. I'm on my 2nd copy.

    I'm with you in that sometimes it's easy to understand the intent of words - if you pay attention to the words around it- which most people do.

    With the comma- like the period, is placed inside the closing quotation mark. If you're talking about quotations within the sentence as opposed to around it- when the full sentence is a quote- I say what the rule is because I've not come across this. I've only seen them at the beginning and ends of sentences.
    "Sometimes I wish I could stay asleep, not because my life is that dull and boring but because my dreams are just that good." - Mindy Dyksterhouse (MzSnowleopard)
    Admin @ Hidden Content & Hidden Content
    Student @ Hidden Content
    Hidden Content / Hidden Content

  4. #4
    WF Veteran Riis Marshall's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Grantham, Lincolnshire - home of Isaac Newton and some woman whose name I've forgotten
    Posts
    794
    Hello Book

    I think it has to do with whether you're writing description or dialogue.

    In dialogue I use all sorts of contractions to try to mimic the speech of my character, contractions I might use in my own speech. So my character might say something like: 'Where're you going?' or 'How're you doing?' that are not what we recognize as 'standard' contractions.

    In descriptive text, however, if I use contractions at all - and I haven't in my last two books - I stick to those we all know and love.

    While I haven't read Zinsser - I think I'll find a copy and read it - I would agree in descriptive text it would be a good idea not to be too creative in this respect.

    As far as 'cheapening your style' this sounds like a bit of a, if you'll pardon the pun, cheap shot. Your style is your style and your style works well when you are connecting with your reader and doesn't work at all when you don't. About the only way to cheapen your style is to be lazy and not make your work the best it can be.

    All the best with your writing.

    Warmest regards
    Riis
    Last edited by Riis Marshall; January 21st, 2016 at 01:58 PM.
    All writing is practise for the writing that follows.
    If it jams, force it; if it breaks, it needed replacing anyhow.
    If you like intelligent contemporary conspiracy thrillers, you may want to check out The Bureau of Happiness
    Hidden Content

  5. #5
    Only if the past and present of the verb take the same form.

    I would run off twenty copies.
    I had run off twenty copies.

    "Cheapening your style" strikes me as a pretentious person making a cheap shot, what works works, and is dependent on context more than anything.
    Visit my website to read and connect to my 'soundcloud', where you can listen to stories songs and more
    Hidden Content

    A thread of links useful to writers wishing to learn
    Piglet's picks. Hidden Content

  6. #6
    Indeed, even when there is more than one way of reading it, context will overcome.
    I've no problem with tagging contractions onto nouns either if it's the type of work where it feels right, though I mainly reserve that for speech and thoughts rather than as a narration style.

    He'll have no fury, like a woman scorned

  7. #7
    The only place I wouldn't use contractions is with academic writing, so unless you're writing an academic paper, you ideally need to make the narration and dialogue as natural as possible.

    There's the misconception the contractions represent formality in fiction. They don't. The difference between the full form (would not) and the contraction (won't) is a matter of stress: Don't walk there v Do not walk there. Dialogue (also 1st pov) naturally shows the higher percentage of contraction use: lemme (let me) c'mere, y'hear, etc because that's where voice really comes through.

    Another thing: if you're placing quotation marks around a word or a term inside the sentence, shouldn't the comma or a period come after the closing of the quotation rather than inside the quotation marks?
    This can depend on a number of things: where you're from and who you publish with. Sometimes for typography reasons, a publisher will ask for a comma to go inside with the likes of single quoted words in a sentence, yet on the outside if there's more than one. Just be consistent with what you do use as a publisher will guide you through their house style etc if you're taken on.
    "You don't wanna ride the bus like this,"

    Mike Posner.



  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Olly Buckle View Post
    Only if the past and present of the verb take the same form.

    I would run off twenty copies.
    I had run off twenty copies.
    And there it is. I completely neglected the irregular verbs which have the same form in two or three columns.

    Anyway, when I picked up the book a long time ago, I didn't pay attention to the subtitle The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction. So yes, the book is centered on academic writing.
    Last edited by Book Cook; January 23rd, 2016 at 09:59 AM.

  9. #9
    Member MzSnowleopard's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Location
    Sioux City, IA
    Posts
    920
    Blog Entries
    48
    I had this issue when I was first introduced to Zinsser's book. "What does a nonfiction book have to do with fiction?" I asked. The explanation was simple- "Even a book written for nonfiction writers can be useful for fiction writers. Just keep in mind that it's slanted towards nonfiction."

    There is a lot of information in his book. Personally though, I get more use out of Self Editing for Fiction Writers How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne & Dave King

    (another text book through Long Ridge)

    This one might be more useful for you. I know that it has been for me.
    "Sometimes I wish I could stay asleep, not because my life is that dull and boring but because my dreams are just that good." - Mindy Dyksterhouse (MzSnowleopard)
    Admin @ Hidden Content & Hidden Content
    Student @ Hidden Content
    Hidden Content / Hidden Content

  10. #10
    The thing I most liked about his book is that he painstakingly tries to almost indoctrinate the reader to keep it simple:

    Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.
    During the 1960s the president of my university wrote a letter to mollify the alumni after a spell of campus unrest. "You are probably aware," he began, "that we have been experiencing very considerable potentially explosive expressions of dissatisfaction on issues only partially related." He meant that the students had been hassling them about different things.
    Clutter is the language of the Pentagon calling an invasion a "reinforced protective reaction strike" and justifying its vast budgets on the need for "counterforce deterrence."
    Source: On Writing Well​ by William Zinsser.

    I've had more laughs reading this book than watching some modern comedy show.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
This website uses cookies
We use cookies to store session information to facilitate remembering your login information, to allow you to save website preferences, to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners.