This resource is an archived version of the Readability Guidelines.

New wiki is at:
Go to the Contractions page.


Some organisations are reluctant to use contractions, but others favour using them as they can make content sound more conversational and friendly.

Use contractions like you’ll and we’ll. Positive contractions have not been observed to cause difficulty for users in usability testing that we know of.

Avoid negative contractions, like 'shouldn't', 'can’t' and 'don’t'. Research shows that many users:

  • find negative contractions difficult to read
  • misread them as the opposite of what they say

Usability evidence

GOV.UK Writing for web guidance, UK Government website, 2016

GOV.UK 'Writing content for everyone', UK Government website, 2016

GOV.UK Verify and the government Design Standards UK Government website, 2016

Using contractions, US Government website, 2011

Using contractions, US Government website, 2015

'Why contractions are perfect for web writing', 2015

'How to make information accessible', 2016

'Use contractions', 2018

'Contractions', 2017

'Using contractions could be making your writing inaccessible', Joanne Schofield, 2017

'Contractions' Canadian Government website, 2018

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