Using Contractions for Authentic Dialogue #amwriting #writingtip #wwwblogs

A very quick tip here for writers struggling with dialogue.


One of the issues that I find in a lot of the manuscripts I edit is that the dialogue can seem forced and contrived. Realistic, believable and authentic dialogue is a must for a good novel, and authors need to make sure they get it right. But many new writers think they have to write ‘properly’ and they think this means eschewing contractions.

Generally, if you want to make your dialogue flow and for readers to believe in it, then you need to use contractions (there are exceptions to this, in particular types of fiction). Think about it. How many people do you know (however posh they are and however ‘properly’ they speak) who say things like this:

‘Please do not walk on the grass.’

The answer is no one. No one ever (except perhaps the queen and probably not even her) speaks like that. It sounds horrible.

So remember:

  • ‘Don’t’ not ‘do not’
  • ‘They’ve’ not ‘they have’
  • ‘Should’ve’ not ‘should have’ (and definitely NOT should of)
  • ‘I’ll’ not ‘I will’
  • ‘Can’t’ not ‘cannot’

You get the point.

There are three things you can do to improve your dialogue:

  • Listen – actually listen to people talking. This has the advantage of also often being very entertaining.
  • Read – when you’re reading, make a note of dialogue that really works, and why it works
  • Speak – read your dialogue out loud. Does it sound right?

Contrived, formal, awkward dialogue is, I’m afraid, the sign of a writer still learning their craft. Get it right, and your writing will be smooth and professional and your dialogue a pleasure to read.



  1. My biggest tip is to read imagine what you would say in the circumstances – actually act the scene out. Then write it down. You’re so right about reading it out loud.

    I know just what you mean with this, Alison – I’ve seen so many debut novels in which the characters talk in perfect English, giving exactly the amount of information required to push the plot to where it needs to be….!

    As for ‘should of’, that should be punishable by death 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooooh… ‘should of’! That winds me up, but people use it all the time. I keep getting text messages from someone who writes ‘dew’ instead of ‘due’. These are such basics.No one should be getting them wrong. It may have been a short post, but it’s a useful one! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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