How Far Apart Are the Contractions? Oops, Not That Kind

Contractions Anyone?

 by

Mary Deal

During the time I did a lot of editing, I found the same errors in manuscripts – over and over. Of course, mostly all pertained to grammar.

One of the frequent errors that go unnoticed only by the writer is when using contractions.

Look at these sentences:

There’s two people standing over by the fence.

There’s some people missing.

Do you see the error? These sentences are also incorrect without using contractions:

There is two people standing over by the fence.

There is some people missing.

If you read out loud, you will hear what’s wrong.

The word is, a verb, is shortened into a contraction with the word there. That’s absolutely correct. But the word is represents something singular. In the first sentence, two people are plural. Same with some people the second sentence.

When more than one subject is the object of the sentence – two people, or some people – then are must be used, which represents more than one.

The correct sentences are:

There are two people standing over by the fence.

There are some people missing.

Much less favorable, and mostly used in dialogue, is:

There’re two people standing over by the fence.

There’re some people missing.

Pick through this article and see the contractions I’ve used. Then speak the sentences out loud and also read them without any words being contracted. Another exercise is to look for examples in other pieces you may read. See if you can spot the errors.

As usual, there is one exception to all this. The poor grammar is perfectly okay to have your characters use in dialogue if you have set them up to speak that way.  They will need to have this type of slangy dialogue throughout the story, unless you plan a huge metamorphosis for that character. Remember to make sure their colloquial dialogue suits their personalities and the parts they play in the story.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre.

 

 

 

 

About Mike Angley

Mike Angley is the award-winning author of the Child Finder Trilogy. He retired as a Colonel from the Air Force in 2007 following a 25-year career as a Special Agent with the Office of Special Investigations (OSI). He held 13 different assignments throughout the world, among which were five tours as a Commander of various units, to include two Air Force Squadrons and a Wing. He is a seasoned criminal investigator and a counterintelligence and counterterrorism specialist. In his last assignment, he was Commander of OSI Region 8 with responsibility for all of Air Force Space Command. He’s fond of saying, “If it entered or exited Earth’s atmosphere, I had a dog in the fight!”
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