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Troublesome Contractions (e.g., I'd've)

Can you really make “Kim Is” into “Kim's”?

By
Bonnie Mills, Writing for
Episode #168

Other Hazardous Contractions

Finally, at the top of the show, you heard me mention contractions such as “I’d’ve” and “there’re.” These mouthfuls are among those you should consider avoiding, especially when you write. It’s not a good idea to contract two things inside one contraction, as happens with “I’d’ve,” a contraction of “I would have” (3). It would be better to say, “I’d have” or perhaps not even use a contraction at all.

As for “there’re,” this is among a fairly long list of contractions that the book Woe Is I, a useful grammar reference by Patricia O'Conner, suggests you avoid (4).

Also among that list are contractions such as “could’ve,” “should’ve,” “would’ve,” “might’ve,” and “must’ve,” because they encourage people to believe the proper pronunciations are “could of” and “must of,” which are incorrect. It’s better to spell these out when you are writing them, though O’Conner’s book acknowledges that you'll probably find yourself using these contractions in regular speech.

Other contractions to consider avoiding include “what’d,” “that’ve,” and “when’re” because they “land with a thud.” (As you can tell, I can barely say them!) Most people’ll—oops, people will—find those contractions odd sounding and odd looking.

Summary

Contractions are useful, especially when you’re writing informally. But beware of potentially confusing or ambiguous contractions and try to avoid those that sound awkward.

The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier

This podcast was written by Bonnie Trenga, author of The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier, who blogs at sentencesleuth.blogspot.com, and I'm Mignon Fogarty, the author of the paperback book Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

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References

1. Garner, B. Garner's Modern English Usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2003, p. 195.
2. Stilman, A. Grammatically Correct. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 2004, p. 192.
3. Lutz, G. and  Stevenson, D. Grammar Desk Reference. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 2005, p. 251.
4. O’Conner, P. Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English. New York: Riverhead Books, 1996, pp. 74-5.

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About the Author

Bonnie Mills, Writing for Grammar Girl

Bonnie Mills has been a copyeditor since 1996.

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