Contractions

Recommendations

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, 2016
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/content-design/writing-for-gov-uk#contractions

GOV.UK 'Writing content for everyone', 2016
https://gds.blog.gov.uk/2016/02/23/writing-content-for-everyone/

GOV.UK Verify and the government Design Standards, 2016
https://identityassurance.blog.gov.uk/2016/03/31/gov-uk-verify-and-the-government-design-standards/

US government on using contractions, 2011, 2015
https://www.plainlanguage.gov/guidelines/conversational/use-contractions/
https://content-guide.18f.gov/voice-and-tone/#use-contractions

'Why contractions are perfect for web writing', 2015
https://www.hotpepper.ca/blog/2015/06/01/why-contractions-are-perfect-for-web-writing/

'How to make information accessible', 2016
https://www.changepeople.org/Change/media/Change-Media-Library/Free%20Resources/How-to-make-info-accessible-guide-2016-Final.pdf

'Use contractions', 2018
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/style-guide/word-choice/use-contractions

'Contractions', 2017
https://developers.google.com/style/contractions

'Using contractions could be making your writing inaccessible', 2017
https://medium.com/@joanne.schofield/using-contractions-could-be-making-your-writing-inaccessible-4034bb3cd76a

'Contractions', 2018
https://www.canada.ca/en/treasury-board-secretariat/services/government-communications/canada-content-style-guide.html#wp4-5

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