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The use of the apostrophe: avoid using contractions within your essay

A contraction, in the context being discussed, refers to the use of an apostrophe in place of other characters. For example, it’s instead of it is, can’t instead of cannot, isn’t instead of is not.

Thus the characters replaced by the apostrophe in the previous examples are ‘i’ ‘no’ and ‘o’. In contractions the characters are replaced for ease of pronunciation, in informal spoken and written English.

The central point of this article however is this:
You should never or at least very rarely use contractions in academic essay writing.

Due to the informal nature of contractions they should only ever be used very sparingly in formal written English. Their use is largely inappropriate for academic essays which by their very nature demand a formal and precise form of English.

Green tick Write the full word
or group of words
Green tick Do not use
Have not Haven’t
It is It’s
I will I’ll
Do not Don’t
Were not Weren’t
Are not Aren’t
Will not Won’t
Is not Isn’t
Cannot Can’t
Should not Shouldn’t
Would not Wouldn’t
Could not Couldn’t
Did not Didn’t

An exception to the rule

As with almost every rule, there are exceptions.

One example where the use of a contraction might be appropriate in this context would be the insertion of a direct quote from an external source, in order to support an argument.

E.g. Indeed the Prime minister speaking in the House of Commons stated that, ‘I’m open to the possibility that a solution may not be found in the near future.’

(Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, 12 December 2005 columns 23–34 – Fictitious Hansard citation)

Informal contractions such as ‘I’m’ are commonly found in speech and informal writing. Here its use is appropriate as it is a direct quote from a relevant external source.

The ideas presented here are not new, but the writing is. Please consider helping to improve the quality of this article and give other readers the benefits of your wisdom by leaving a comment.

Inspiring and helpful comments may be incorporated into future articles.

Thank you.

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