What Are Contractions? Understanding Contractions, Abbreviations, and AcronymsMar 11
In an era of tweets and text messages, there is widespread usage of contraction in our writing. Some decry such contraction as the demise of formal English. Luckily, English does provide us with various instruments of contraction.
In its simplest form, a contraction could be understood as a reduction in size of a word or a group of words. Some common methods to achieve contraction are:
1) Abbreviation: Loosely, all contractions are abbreviations. However, the term abbreviation usually refers to a series of letters taken from a word or phrase. For example, the word Doctor can be abbreviated as Dr. or informally as doc. It is interesting that the word abbreviation itself is so long an unwieldy. One question which is not well answered is, “Should abbreviations end in a period?” For instance, is it Dr or Dr. Likewise, is it U.S.A. or USA? Increasingly grammarians are accepting abbreviations without a period as the correct form.
2) Acronym: I like to think of an acronym as a word formed by using the initial letters of a group of words. As a result, it is also called initialism. An acronym example could be LASER, which stands for Light Amplification Through Stimulated Emission of Radiation. As acronyms get absorbed into language, they are no longer written using capital letters. An example of this is, once again: laser.
3) Contractions are rather simple. Did not is contracted as didn’t, while I am is contracted as I’m. If you look again, you will notice that while contracting do not and I am, I introduced a punctuation mark. The apostrophe marks the point where contraction occurs. Of course, marking the point of contraction is not the only use of an apostrophe. In a later article, we will attempt to understand apostrophes better.
There was a point of time when I would freely use contractions in my writing. However, when I was the Guide to Business Majors at About.com I was informed that contractions are slang, and should be avoided as much as possible. Though I still say don’t quite easily, I have indeed reduced my usage of contraction.