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Writing academically: Contractions

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Contractions occur when you use an apostrophe to indicate missing letters in the abbreviated forms of many short phrases. You should avoid using contractions in academic writing as they are too informal. This page gives examples of common contractions and what to use instead.


What to avoid and what to use instead

 

Avoid Instead use

Didn't

Did not

Couldn't

Could not

Won't

Will not

Aren't

Are not

Haven't 

Have not

Should've

Should have*

Could've

Could have*

I've

I have

I'll

I shall

(S)he'll

(S)he will

It'll

It will

Avoid Instead use

He's/she's

He is/she is

Who's**

Who is

Don't

Do not

We're

We are

There's

There is

That's

That is

Can't

Cannot

(S)he'd

(S)he had or (S)he would

They're

They are

(S)he's

(S)he is

Isn't

Is not

* It is a common misconception that the non-abbreviated form of could've and should've is 'could of' and 'should of'. Please note this is not the case and the full form uses the word 'have'. You would never dream of using 'I of' as the full form of I've.

** Note that who's is a contraction of who is whilst whose is the possessive form of who (e.g. Darwin, whose theory of evolution was groundbreaking, was ...)