I’m reading The Essex Serpent at the moment by Sarah Perry (well worth your time and will look lovely on your bookshelf), a historical gothicky novel set in and around my old neck of the woods of Colchester. It’s a great read, but I’ve found myself distracted a couple of times by her use of contractions. Now anyone who knows me and my writing will know that I’m a great advocate of contractions (‘we’re’, ‘it’s’, etc, etc.) – they’re a really quick and easy way to immediately make writing sound less robotic and more like a human being’s come up with the words. I tell all my clients to use them whenever they can. But Ms Perry has gone one step further and used some slightly unusual ones, which I’m not entirely sure I’m on board with – especially considering that I sometimes avoid ‘it’ll’ as it feels like a step too far. Some examples:
- “Cora Seaborne sends a wreath judged rightly to’ve cost the earth.”
- “…she looked relieved; she told me she’d’ve had the operation if I thought it best.”
- “He could’ve dropped dead right there at his desk and we’d’ve all laughed.”
The examples in bold, I’m reliably informed by the internet, are unimaginatively called “double contractions” because they contain (you’ve guessed it), two apostrophes as well as two contractional clitics (i.e. the ’d and ’ve).
So what do you think? If you read them out loud they sound fine. And Wikipedia has a great long list of acceptable double contractions, some of which actually hurt my eyes. Like she’ll’ve. Too much, or something we should all be trying to embrace?