Writing Style – Contractions

BizWritingTip reader: “I received an email that contained the word these’re. A list of clients was provided and the message stated ‘I think these’re deceased clients.’ Is this correct grammar? Can any word be used in a contraction? It looked a little strange to me.”

BizWritingTip response: A contraction is a word or phrase that has been shortened by using an apostrophe to indicate missing letters. For example, it is orit has can be reduced to it’s.

There are two types of contractions. The first relates to the shortening of a verb accompanied by the word not.

Should not = shouldn’t
Would not = wouldn’t
Do not = don’t
Cannot = can’t

The second type of contraction relates to pronouns and verbs that are either helping verbs or variations of the word to be. The apostrophe may replace one or more letters.

I would = I’d
I have = I’ve
We will = we’ll

The only contraction that does not fall into one of these two categories is let’s meaning let us.

Contractions can be used in spoken English and in informal writing such as emails. I am now starting to see contractions used in letters — when the writer wants to use a warm, conversational tone.

Contractions should not be used in formal writing such as reports.

Now back to the original question: these’re. Frankly, although it does follow under the pronoun and verb category, it could not be used in spoken English. It would sound quite sloppy — coming out as “these-er clients” rather than “these are clients.” Therefore, as you can’t say it, don’t write it.

I’m trusting you’ll be able to put this information to good use.