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This chapter is from the book


Contractions are words formed by joining two words and dropping letters. An apostrophe marks the dropped letters:

  • cannot
  • can’t
  • we are
  • we’re
  • there is
  • there’s
  1. Use contractions to establish a personal, informal tone.

    Contractions are not appropriate for very formal or ceremonial documents such as contracts or legal notices. However, contractions lead to a conversational, friendly tone in most other business correspondence. Contractions are common in electronic mail (email) messages because they cut the amount of screen space required.

    • We’re excited that you’ll be joining our sales force!
    • It’s been a long time since you’ve come to see us.

    See LETTERS, TONE, and contractions in WORD PROBLEMS.

  2. Don’t confuse contractions with possessive pronouns.

    Writers often confuse contractions, which require apostrophes, with possessive pronouns, which need no apostrophes:

    • It’s (it is) a regulatory issue.
    • The company lost its lease.
    • There’s (there is) no time to waste.
    • The contract is theirs if they want it.

    Watch out for these pronouns commonly mistaken for contractions:

    • hers, not her’s
    • yours, not your’s
    • ours, not our’s
    • theirs, not their’s

    Distinguish between:

    • it’s (it is)
    • its (belonging to it)
    • you’re (you are)
    • your (belonging to you)
    • they’re (they are)
    • their (belonging to them)


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