Contraction: Distraction?

I was told by an author that using contractions (e.g. “we’ll” instead of “we will”, “you’re” instead of “you are”) in MSDN Magazine can cause confusion in readers for whom English is not their native tongue. I haven’t heard this as a general complaint, and wanted to find out if that is indeed the case.

Can those of you who have an opinion on this please weigh in? Click my name for the email link.



Keith Ward


MSDN Magazine

Comments (14)

  1. tobi says:

    In Germany we learn that in the first year of English lessons. No problem here.

  2. Diego F. says:

    Contractions don't affect legibility or clarity in any circunstance. If one can't understand contraction, what about the rest?

  3. Josh says:

    That sounds like a Hanselman. He's always asking his podcast guests to explain everyday words for the benefit of these mythical non-english speaking readers/listeners that happen to read/listen to english language content…

  4. Frederic says:

    I think i would agree. Moreover contraction are not beneficiary in a written format.

    They do not bring any value – I would say avoid them when possible.

  5. David V. Corbin says:

    I tend to avoid them most of the time in any serious writing, but I can't say I never use them <grin>

  6. Matthias says:

    German native tongue, but it's perfectly fine for me too (first year of English classes as well).

  7. Raffaele says:

    I'm Italian. No problem for me. Common contractions are explained in every English course.

  8. Use of contractions is more of a stylistic problem. I don't think that it causes problems for those who are non-native speakers of English, as these prior comments confirm. Here are two issues that you should consider. Both are reasons to avoid contractions in writing for a publication such as MSDN Magazine:

    1) If the magazine is being read online using a translation program from English to another language, contractions can further garble the translation, and

    2) As a matter of English usage, which is becoming an increasing standard on the internet when writing, as well as in hard-copy publications, contractions are not appropriate for formal content. That sounds stuffy and old-fashioned, but is true. However, avoiding use of contractions gives a more credible tone to a piece of writing. We all want that, right?

    Hope this is of some help!

  9. Ben says:

    French native tongue, contractions are really not a problem. Learned English as second language and contractions were taught right from the begining. English is rather easy to read and write compared to french. Even french native have a hard time trying to write without making a grammar error (too many exceptions).

    So please leave English the way it is, keep it simple and keep up the good work!

  10. WaltD says:

    I'm a native English speaker – and guilty of constant contractions in writing – but I agree with EllieK here. Contractions don't belong in formal writing.

    You have to decide if what you are writing is formal writing or not.

  11. Stefano "WildHeart" Lanzavecchia says:

    I am a native Italian speaker, but I think that EllieK's comment is spot on. Not only point 2 is exactly what I was taught in my foreign language (English) classes, but I think that point 1 should not be underestimated either. Well said!

  12. Scott Hanselman says:

    They exist, and they email me in broken English to thank me for expanding those acronyms.

  13. Diego says:

    I learned after many years of speaking English that contractions are informal and should be avoided in formal documents. But they certainly cause no issues at all for foreign speakers with basic English knowledge.

  14. Mateus says:

    I am from Brazil, and I personally have no problem with english, I might have error here and there, but I everything, unless the word is just not in my vocabulary, acronyms can be a problem sometime, and the use of those when you are referencing a role, like Business Analyst (BA) , Program Manager (PM), can be a problem, because they are not necessarily easily translatable, and some of them are local used words that won't be available in other languages.

    Now I am talking about languages that are different from English, but use the same alphabet, if you go to other languages, like Chinese, Japanese, they might not have contractions and if you don't know that those exists you will try to find a word exactly as it looks written, and well, you won't find it.

    So I agree with MSDN folks, and specially with what Hanselman, and the guys from .NET Rocks, that I listen to very often, that you should explain what the acronym is and depending on the word spell it out, because some letter sound different to differently trained years.

    Want a couple of examples.

    Spanish: V is pronounced as B, so Berry would be spelled as Very for a Spanish speaking person, although they say Very as Berry.

    English (American): Automatic would be spelled Auromarique in Portuguese if you are listening to a american say.

    Portuguese: à is a contraction of "a a", would you have guessed that? This one is especially for those of you that said not to the question, and said things like "if they don't know this, then what about the rest", oh well here we go.

    Anyways, the simples way of writing is always the best way to communicate, languages with time will incorporate slang, and bad writing behaviors, that are accepted by the natives, but not necessarily taught in other languages. I could write a phrase in Portuguese, exactly as it is spoken, and I bet that even with google, most of you would have a very hard time translating to whatever the native language is.

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