Using Contractions in an Essay: Can you use Contractions in An Essay?

In today’s world, numerous things continue to change, concerning how people use different language features to communicate, either through speaking or in writing. For example, nowadays, people are using emojis when writing and texting, especially through digital platforms. In addition, the use of contractions in different forms of writing has been on the rise.

Nevertheless, there have been countless arguments from different professionals on the appropriate use of these contractions, and the type of documents in which they can be included. Using contractions in an essay is among the highly discussed arguments.

Therefore, this article sheds more light on this matter and guides you on the instances that you can use contractions and those that you should avoid using them.

What Are Contractions?

Contractions are shortened forms of words, created by combining two or more words where you omit some letters or sounds. Contractions are widely used when speaking or writing because they make the words shorter, thereby, modifying the conversational tone to become better.

Also see: Can an Essay Be One Paragraph?

However, people should be careful not to confuse contractions, acronyms, and abbreviations. Although all the three forms of words are in shortened versions, they are different. Acronyms are shortened forms of groups of words such as PIN (Personal Identification Number), or ASAP (As Soon as Possible). On the other hand, abbreviations are contracted forms of individual words and phrases such as Dr. (Doctor), or Mr. (Mister).

Today, there are four main types of contractions that different speakers and writers use. They include;

  • Interrogative adverbs. These types of contractions are used in interrogative sentences, formed by joining an interrogative adverb and a verb. An excellent example is, instead of writing ‘where is’ you write ‘where’s.’
  • Informal contractions. This form of contractions is created by shortening various forms of words casually, usually used in the American English setting. They include ‘gonna’ to shorten ‘going to,’ ‘wanna’ to shorten ‘want to,’ or ‘y’all’ to shorten ‘you all.’
  • Using a verb plus ‘not.’ This form of contraction is the most common and highly used in both speaking and writing. It involves combining a verb and the word ‘not’ to form a negative contraction. Excellent examples of this form of contraction include can’t, won’t, couldn’t, or, shouldn’t.
  • Using a subject pronoun plus a verb. Also pretty popular, this form of contraction involves joining a subject pronoun and a verb. Common contractions that are formed in this manner include, I’ve, she’s, he’s, we’d, or you’ll. Here, you can also join nouns and other words to form a contraction, for example, there’s or here’s.

When Do You Use Contractions?

Contractions have been there since more than 1000 years ago and different speakers and writers have been using them when communicating. That being said, contractions are vital when writing informal pieces of writing because they enhance the readability of that piece by giving it a better flow and making it less stuffy.

They give the article a personal, friendly, conversational, and readable tone, thereby, appealing better to the reader’s human sensibilities. In return, the reader will be able to relate better to the article than when you write it in a more formal tone.

If you are asking yourself about the instances when you may use contractions, the following are excellent examples when you should use them. When you are writing

  • personal blogs
  • friendly letters
  • personal emails
  • fictional stories
  • personal narrative essays
  • dialogues
  • and casual conversations.

Can You Use Contractions in an Essay?

You can use contractions in an essay. Although essays are formal forms of writing, occasional use of contractions can be beneficial in making the approach of that essay conversational, rather than being too formal. In that case, remember to include these contractions where they only fit. Besides, the Chicago and MLA writing formats allow the use of contractions in essays.

However, numerous academic professionals are against the use of contractions in academic essays, and research papers, where protocols of formal and official writing must be observed. In such cases, the use of contractions would be wrong because they would be distracting and would lessen the impact that you want your essay to have on your readers. The reader would take you less seriously if you overuse these contractions.

Are Contractions Discouraged in Academic Writing?

Contractions are discouraged in academic writing. In addition, the use of contractions is discouraged in any form of formal pieces of writing including resumes, publications, business presentations, cover letters, professional reports, formal essays, and scholarly works.

Academic professionals argue that the use of contractions in these formal papers makes the paper look casual and informal which should not be the case. Furthermore, they argue that contractions weaken the message of such academic papers.

When can you use contractions in an essay?

However, even if including contractions in your academic paper or a formal piece of writing is discouraged, there are circumstances and situations that necessitate you to employ them. These circumstances include;

  • When you are quoting an individual or a piece of writing immediately, and the quote incorporates a contraction in it.
  • When contractions are the main topic of the academic paper you are writing about. In such a case, you ought to write examples of contractions in your paper for better explanations.
  • When you want to include a commonly used phrase such as an idiom. In such a case, using a contraction would be beneficial to maintain the simplicity of the idiom.
  • When you want to convey a personal opinion in a formal piece of writing such as an academic research paper you may employ a contraction to break the formality a little bit.

Can You Use Contractions in a Personal Narrative Essay?

You can use contractions in a personal narrative essay. Since a personal narrative is not a formal piece of writing, employing contractions in the essay will make it easily readable and enjoyable.

The reason for this is that by introducing contractions, you employ a conversational tone that is casual in nature, which most of your readers will find simple and enjoyable while reading.

Also see: Can You Write 3 Essays in One Day?

However, before you publish or submit your personal narrative essay, reread it to ensure that the use of contractions adds richness to the essay. If they would confuse your readers, it would be vital for you to write them in full words rather than shortening them.

When Should You Not Use Contractions?

As much as the use of contractions enhances the flow of your paper and makes it easily readable. This is not always the case. There are situations that discourage the use of these contractions which include;

  • When you are communicating to a person or an audience whose English is not their first language. In such a situation, avoid using contractions because it may prove challenging for them to read and even understand because they do not find them natural.
  • When you are writing a formal piece of writing. Do not use contractions when writing formal articles and essays as they will depict casualness in your writing and weaken the message. Excellent examples of formal pieces of writing in which you should avoid contractions include resumes, publications, business presentations, cover letters, professional reports, formal essays, and scholarly works.
  • When your piece of writing is meant to be read by people with minimal literacy capabilities or with learning disabilities. This is because such people find it difficult to pronounce and interpret the contractions. As a result, they may not grasp the message that the article is trying to convey.


After reading this article thoroughly, you would agree that contractions have been used by speakers and writers since for a long time because of their ability to enhance a piece of writing by making it less stuffy.

This is, especially true with informal articles and creative works. However, using contractions in an essay or in other formal articles is discouraged by professionals.