In the age of smartphones, iPads and instant communication, it’s no wonder that students love contractions: Their tempo is similarly fast and easy. Plus, students are smart to remember that writing teachers far and wide admonish their eager learners to write like they talk and to avoid stilted language. When you add it all up, it’s easy to make a case for using contractions -- unless you’re writing a paper according to the dictates of the sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.
Avoid Shortcuts in Academic Writing
Contractions should be avoided in papers that follow APA style, whether you call them formal papers, scholarly efforts or academic writing. So yes, this means you should write “I will” instead of “I’ll,” “she is” instead of “she’s,” “do not” instead of “don’t,” “cannot” instead of “can’t” and “have not” instead of “haven’t,” among other contractions. There’s little doubt that saying “Would not this be a good idea?” sounds awkward compared to “Wouldn’t this be a good idea?” In this case, you might wish to recast the sentence. An example: “This may seem to be a good idea” or “Many teachers agree that this is a good idea.” Keep in mind, though, that contractions should remain intact if they’re contained within a quote you’re using in your APA paper.
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- Purdue University Online Writing Lab: Contractions
- The New St. Martin’s Handbook; Andrea Lunsford and Robert Connors; 1999.
- Elmhurst College: Checklist for APA Style
- Eastern Illinois University: American Psychological Association (APA) Guide Sixth Edition, 2010: Basic Format of Paper (page 12)
- Missouri Western State College: APA Style Quick Reference (page 7)
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