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Using contractions in essays

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Using contractions in essays [#permalink] New post 10 Dec 2006, 14:45
Is it bad to use contractions, such as "I've always"

Or is it better to say, "I have always.."

Using contractions makes my essays sound much more nicer.
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 [#permalink] New post 10 Dec 2006, 14:51
I personally wouldn't use any contraction, but I'm keen to see any comment from mother tongue people
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 [#permalink] New post 10 Dec 2006, 15:02
When I first started writing my essays I used contractions because I thought they made my essays more personal, but then an "expert" in this field said the essys should be a bit more formal than that.
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 [#permalink] New post 10 Dec 2006, 15:22
I'm not a native speaker as well, but I'd rather advise to relax about such minor stuff. The essence of your story is MUCH MUCH MUCH more important than microscopic style irregularities.

Seriously, can you imagine the adcom turn you down cause you wrote "wasn't", not "was not"?

P.S. This of course does NOT mean that I agitate you to talk like a rapper. Yo man, wassup. :)
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 [#permalink] New post 10 Dec 2006, 15:52
In my experience, foreign speakers are more likely to use contractions. Other languages have much clearer differentiation between formal and informal voice and as a result foreign speakers are less likely to understand the nuances that differentiate between formal and informal in the English language. To them, English is so incredibly informal compared to what they’re used to that they don’t always appreciate the small differences in tone. I say this as someone who grew up outside the US and attended foreign speaking schools. If you have any doubt, go without the contractions…
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 [#permalink] New post 10 Dec 2006, 17:32
I use them in mine and don't care. The sytle and tone of the essay will come through much more on your overall language than on whether you said its or it is or whatever.

For instance, I often see people use cliches such as "I'd hit two birds with one stone", or otherwise more wordy phrases such as "They'd tossed it over the fence, and thus ... .bla bla"... brevity and conciseness often give a lot towards tone as well. Just for example.

"Having understood that various difficulties lay ahead that I would face in taking a new position, I knew that as my father had once said to me during my early childhood years "You must fight". I then knew that I had to keep pressing fowards to be able to get what I wanted to achieve. Despite many obvious obstacles and challenges, I decided to go for it. I know now that whenever I come face to face with an obstacle in my life I can tackle it and pin it to the ground with my determination."

Thats wordy and sounds very, chatty.

Compared to say,

"Faced with signficant challenges, I drew inspiration from my fathers' words: "You must fight". Nervous but undeterred, I accepted the new position. I've since realized that with determination I can suceed, even in difficult circumstances."

Basically they say the same thing, but how they read is drastically different and the number of unessecary words is dramatically reduced.

Take another example:

"I was thinking about giving each person a blackberry and Web/Internet access. For the customer, this would allow them to connect and start obtaining email right from day 1, without waiting for IT help. For us, this meant we could help the marketing employees, as well as also sell our Internet messenger to customers who need it or ask for it"

Vs:

"After careful consideration, I equipped our customers with Blackberrys. This not only provided key partners with connectivity to our offices but also enabled the marketing department's use of a powerful channel with which to build our messenger brand."

Same thing, reads very differently.

What I'm trying to say is, the rest of your essay is far more likely to convey tone and style than whether I said "I've" or "I have"
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 [#permalink] New post 11 Dec 2006, 08:19
Don't use contractions. It is far too informal.

Contractions are sometimes ok for an email, but you should never use contractions in an important piece of correspondence (or in this case, an essay).
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 [#permalink] New post 11 Dec 2006, 12:54
Yeah just spell it out to be of the safe side! Also if you use abbreviations, ensure that you explain what they are.
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Re: Using contractions in essays [#permalink] New post 14 Sep 2010, 15:15
I talked to my editor (she's 65 with lots of experience; actually retiring this month!) about this one and she told me the following:

Contractions are ok because they bring out the more "personal" feel to the essay. It just sounds more natural to say (and thus write) "I've" instead of "I have."

She also noticed a trend in business writing that contractions are becoming more used and actually preferred in most cases. She doesn't know, however, whether MBA application essays are considered "business writing."

Also worth mentioning: Use a contraction on "negation phrases" when you want to also soften the tone: "there wasn't" instead of "there was not." Use the latter if you want to emphasize the "not." The purpose of this is to bring out the "positives" in your writing, and lessen the "negatives."
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Re: Using contractions in essays [#permalink] New post 14 Sep 2010, 18:22
it sounds like either is fine. I agree with rhyme that it's really the rest of the essay that will make the different. I, too, do not feel that contractions will be a make or break deal. I think this will depend on the occasion and phrase that you use it in.
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Re: Using contractions in essays [#permalink] New post 14 Sep 2010, 18:34
Agree with Rhyme. I used them and don't think there's anything wrong with it. Your essay should sound like you.
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Re: Using contractions in essays   [#permalink] 14 Sep 2010, 18:34
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