Editing Tip: Contractions

This article discusses the use of contractions in academic writing.

This editing tip focuses on another way to maintain a formal tone when writing a research manuscript. Word choice and phrasing can go a long way toward making a paper sound like it belongs in a journal, but there are also grammatical constructs to avoid. One such construct is the contraction. While common to spoken language and informal communications (think of e-mails), contractions are rarely seen in academic writing.

A contraction is a shortened version of a word or phrase that uses the apostrophe to replace the elided characters. A few examples include can’t for cannot, isn’t for is not, and what’s for what is or what has. It is important to remember that contractions are proper English words. Because they are reminiscent of everyday speech, however, they bear a stigma that precludes them from scientific texts.

Similarly, possessive forms of nouns are also rare in academic writing. In English, the possessive is formed by adding ’s to the end of a word (as in “This is Jane’s house.”). Again, this construct is perfectly grammatical and is frequent in day-to-day writing and communication. Still, when writing a paper for publication, it is best to rearrange these forms into prepositional phrases. For example, “the cell’s second membrane” can be written as “the second membrane of the cell.”

We hope that this tip will help you keep a formal tone in your writing! As always, send us any questions at [email protected].</p>

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