The Death of Contractions

Ronzo

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Mar 10, 2016
Posts
1,783
Age
70
Location
South Florida, USA
I recently had a general counsel rewrite a message I'd crafted for a very wide audience. Every contraction was stricken, he told me they were "too folksy." I just smiled and remembered people often hate lawyers for reasons big and small. He was also frogmarched out of the building not three months later, so... y'know.
In a job I worked for NYNEX in the 90s, I reported to a boss that rewrote everything I submitted. He also had a direct report in Boston who he required to carry both a pager and a cell phone, which he used to torment this person several times daily. This was a strategic planning position; there was no business need in that position to be contacted on an urgent or even daily basis, as long as deadlines were met.

I arranged a meeting with his boss, the division manager. The DM was well-respected by upper management and his subordinates. I explained that this boss was pushing make-work assignments on me by insisting on constant edits that didn’t change what I was communicating. I provided samples of what was being asked of me. The DM said, “Why is he doing this? None of this is of substance - it’s all stylistic.” I said, “My point exactly. You asked me to join your group to do actual work.” He said, “What’s your suggested solution?” I replied, “Transfer me and my projects to ANY other boss in your group. Anyone but him.” He said, “How about going back to (my immediate prior boss)?” I said, “That would be fine. She has a good grasp of my projects, and she and I communicate well.” He said, “OK. Done. Now, just between you and me, do you see anything else that bothers you about his group?”

I swallowed and said, “Yes. Why would there be a need for a Strategic Planner to carry a pager and a Company cell phone?” He smiled and said, “Thanks for the information.”

I was transferred that day. And things changed in Boston.
 

loopfinding

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Jun 19, 2011
Posts
4,633
Location
europe endless
Every contraction was stricken, he told me they were "too folksy."

i can see that. i recently read a political piece my friend submitted before it went through editing. i was a little taken aback by the tone of it. when the writing is in a formal-ish context, it just seems very patronizing/talking down to the reader if it comes off as "folksy."

but something like vice (well, 00s vice, when it was primarily a print mag) is fine - informal, lot of f-bombs, pissed off - but incisive.
 

oldunc

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Jan 31, 2014
Posts
2,008
Location
California
“No contractions” was a plot device used in the Longmire TV series (Netflix) for Lou Diamond Phillips’ Henry Standing Bear character. The precision of his speech pattern implied the character’s steadfast adherence to rules - and stood in stark opposition to the character’s flaws as shown later in the series.

“I’ll give you a topic: The Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire. Discuss.”


I think that goes back at least to Data (the robot) on Star Trek, Next Generation.
 

getbent

Telefied
Gold Supporter
Joined
Mar 2, 2006
Posts
47,617
Location
San Benito County, California
In a job I worked for NYNEX in the 90s, I reported to a boss that rewrote everything I submitted. He also had a direct report in Boston who he required to carry both a pager and a cell phone, which he used to torment this person several times daily. This was a strategic planning position; there was no business need in that position to be contacted on an urgent or even daily basis, as long as deadlines were met.

I arranged a meeting with his boss, the division manager. The DM was well-respected by upper management and his subordinates. I explained that this boss was pushing make-work assignments on me by insisting on constant edits that didn’t change what I was communicating. I provided samples of what was being asked of me. The DM said, “Why is he doing this? None of this is of substance - it’s all stylistic.” I said, “My point exactly. You asked me to join your group to do actual work.” He said, “What’s your suggested solution?” I replied, “Transfer me and my projects to ANY other boss in your group. Anyone but him.” He said, “How about going back to (my immediate prior boss)?” I said, “That would be fine. She has a good grasp of my projects, and she and I communicate well.” He said, “OK. Done. Now, just between you and me, do you see anything else that bothers you about his group?”

I swallowed and said, “Yes. Why would there be a need for a Strategic Planner to carry a pager and a Company cell phone?” He smiled and said, “Thanks for the information.”

I was transferred that day. And things changed in Boston.

that is totally how things should work. makes me happy to see what you and the DM did.
 

Matt Sarad

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Apr 29, 2003
Posts
1,756
Location
Buckers Field!
I taught Jr. High English for 11 years in a Central Valley California farming community.
75% of my students came from families where Spanish was spoken at home and outside the classroom.
Contractions were widely ignored.
 

getbent

Telefied
Gold Supporter
Joined
Mar 2, 2006
Posts
47,617
Location
San Benito County, California
Maybe. But he is talented.

Oh I think he is Faulkner's equal without tricks. He is outstanding. and human.

Awhile back, I completed something and got official 'huzzahs' for it. It was a complex and difficult political mine field type thing and a couple of the tactics I used to complete it, I thought were deft... a local political figure and I were talking about it afterward and he told me that I did not need to use them to get the result. He said it in a way that was along the lines of 'hey, you had everything lined up, you did not need to use a trick to achieve your goals'

it is like overplaying a winning hand. I am not going to do it again.
 

oldunc

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Jan 31, 2014
Posts
2,008
Location
California
I agree. If you look at writing, say from the Victorian Age, it was positively florid. Reading it, I find myself thinking, "spit it out, just say it!"

Oh, and strait=>straight, unless it's dire straits. ;)

EDIT: Have you read McCarthy's Suttree? That's florid!




Or the strait of Gibraltar or one of that crowd.
 

David Barnett

Doctor of Teleocity
Ad Free Member
Joined
Mar 17, 2003
Posts
17,333
Age
65
Location
The Far-Flung Isles of Langerhans
816
 

buster poser

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
May 1, 2018
Posts
5,952
Location
Tewa Land NM
i can see that. i recently read a political piece my friend submitted before it went through editing. i was a little taken aback by the tone of it. when the writing is in a formal-ish context, it just seems very patronizing/talking down to the reader if it comes off as "folksy."

but something like vice (well, 00s vice, when it was primarily a print mag) is fine - informal, lot of f-bombs, pissed off - but incisive.
I agree. I'd have to post the whole thing here as back up, but my writing tone (esp for that audience) is generally straight ahead, as Uncle Sam taught me when I wore combat boots every day. I think there were four apostrophes in total, and all were like "...you would've received the training if you attended the prior meeting..."

I guess people might interpret that as too familiar or something, but there was nothing otherwise folksy about it, just seemed like a really weird criterion.
 

Rustbucket

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Mar 28, 2016
Posts
6,377
Location
Arizona / Québec
I'm going to try an experiment. When my wife comes home from work, I will try to speak without using contractions and see if she notices. Anyone else up for it? Report back tomorrow.

Funny, I typically avoid contractions when I speak to my Québécoise wife, as I've found it helps her better understand me. This is ironic since contractions are obligatory in her native tongue.

Unfortunately, my habit of intentionally using more proper pronunciation with her is spilling over into the way I speak to others. Other native Arizonans here are starting to say I'm beginning to develop a foreign accent.
 

bobio

Tele-Afflicted
Gold Supporter
Joined
Apr 7, 2010
Posts
1,769
Age
58
Location
Here
I was always taught that contractions are merely a shortcut and not proper language usage.
Just like the death of cursive writing, this seems like the appendix to me. A useless vestige of the past.
 




Top