In the past few months, I’ve had more than one client insist that I remove all contractions from the Web copy I’ve written for them.
I use contractions because I had read somewhere (long ago) that contractions make copy — especially Web copy — easier to read. Contractions make copy flow better, and they make copy sound natural.
After going through yet another project and removing contractions, I did a bit of research to determine why some clients were so adverse to them.
According to Jennifer Alvey at the Word Solutions blog, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers were trained to use contractions only in “casual” writing.
This makes sense to me. I’ve had more than one client over the years come back to me with, “My daughter in college proofread your copy and made the following changes . . . .”
The changes always entail rendering my zippy marketing copy into stuffy, dull, awkward prose that adheres to the rules of standard college English. UGH.
According Roy Jacobsen, in his article, “Contractions and How Not to Abuse Them,” eliminating contractions is a huge mistake for this very reason.
Jacobsen, quoting William Zinsser, author of Writing Well, gives a number of guidelines on when to use contractions. Bottom line: consider your audience, your tone and what you’re writing.
For us marketing types, using contractions is A-ok — especially because we’re usually compelling people to take some sort of action. As Zinsser points out, because we tend to skim content (especially online), we often miss the second word when a contraction is spelled out — i.e. we read “would not” as “would.”
Hence, contractions improve reader comprehension, which in turn increases conversions.
Well-written, grammatically correct copy never goes out of style. Formal academic English, however, has no place in marketing copy.
Do you agree or disagree? And, do you push back when clients ask that you remove contractions?
Edited to add that Copyblogger also has a great article relating to this topic: 7 Bad Writing Habits You Learned in School.