Usage and Grammar

Q. I am working on a book that is more of an information-type book. The author consistently used “it’s,” “I’m,” “I’ve,” “don’t,” “doesn’t,” etc., throughout the entire thing. I went through with the spelling check (I’m using Microsoft Word), and it suggested changing them to “it is,” “I am,” “I have,” etc. I do not think that one should use the abbreviated version. For one, it doesn’t save any space and appears rather unprofessionally written. This will be a published book. Is there a definitive rule on this or is it simply up to the writer/editor on how these words should be used?

A. There’s no rule against contractions in the real world, but your version of Word evidently didn’t get the memo. You can change this in the Tools menu (Options → Spelling and Grammar → Settings → Style) or in Word 2007 via the MS Office Button (Word Options → Proofing → When correcting spelling and grammar → Settings → Style) once you decide on your document’s level of formality. Published content varies in its tone, and therefore in its tolerance of contractions. If your writer naturally uses contractions, wiping them out will change his tone of voice, so you should talk to your editorial supervisor and the author about the preferred tone for this book before letting Word have its way.