TC Myths

All technical communication myths in place.

You can't use contracted forms of verbs

Contractions should be avoided in technical content.


Johnson (14 Widespread Myths about Technical Writing) cites a post that is no longer available as well as an earlier post of his (Sierra Says Help Needs to Be Human, Conversational, and Geared Towards Panicky Users) about a talk by Kathy Sierra (links no longer working) that suggests online writing, including help, should be more human and less robot (formal) to have a friendlier tone.

Budinski (2001) says in his manual of style for engineers, “Contractions should never be used in techincal writing [my opinion]. They are essentially a form of slang, and slang expressions are often not appropriate in technical writing.” He acknowledges that there is some dispute about this and concludes with, “Use contractions sparingly, if at all.”

Survival tips

Follow your style guide.


Formal writing does not use contractions. If you want to have a more informal tone, contractions will help.

You’re writing to humans, why not sound human? On the other hand, when you are looking for an authority to set things right, a casual tone can sound insensitive to the situation (crisis) at hand.