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Updated Mar 13, 2023

The Power of Contractions: A Closer Look at the Rhetorical Device of Contraction

Contractions are not just a grammatical convenience; they possess an inherent power to convey emotions, establish a relatable tone, and create memorable phrases. In the realm of rhetoric, contractions take on a new level of significance as a rhetorical device known as "contraction." Contractions can be found in various forms of communication, from literature to speeches, and even everyday conversations. In this article, we will explore the art of contraction, its purpose, and some notable examples.

Understanding the Purpose of Contractions

Contractions, as a rhetorical device, serve multiple purposes that enhance communication and resonate with the audience. By combining two words into one, contractions create a sense of informality and intimacy. They help to establish a relatable tone, making the speaker or writer appear more approachable and engaging. Additionally, contractions can convey emotions more effectively, adding depth and nuance to the message being conveyed.

Notable Examples of Contractions in Literature

  1. "I'm" - In William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, the famous line "To be, or not to be: that is the question" could have easily been written as "To be or not to be: that's the question." However, the contraction "I'm" lends a poetic rhythm to the phrase, emphasizing the internal struggle of Hamlet's soliloquy.

  2. "It's" - In F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel The Great Gatsby, the narrator Nick Carraway describes his first impressions of Jay Gatsby's smile, stating, "It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself." The contraction "It's" enhances the flow and rhythm of the passage, allowing the reader to experience the speaker's awe and admiration more vividly.

Contractions in Speeches

  1. "I've" - In his famous speech at Stanford University in 2005, Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., stated, "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life." The contraction "I've" adds a personal touch to Jobs' message, making it relatable and impactful.

  2. "Can't" - In her Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Malala Yousafzai, the youngest-ever Nobel laureate, said, "I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is not. It is the story of many girls." The contraction "can't" emphasizes the frustration and determination behind her fight for girls' education, creating a powerful and memorable statement.

Everyday Conversations

Contractions are an integral part of everyday conversations, making communication more efficient and natural. They help to convey emotions, establish rapport, and create a sense of familiarity. For example:

  • "I don't know" - This contraction is often used to express uncertainty or lack of knowledge in a casual conversation, allowing the speaker to convey their thoughts more concisely.
  • "Let's go" - The contraction "let's" is commonly used to suggest an activity or propose a plan, fostering a sense of inclusiveness and collaboration.

Embrace the Power of Contractions

Contractions, as a rhetorical device, hold a significant place in effective communication. By utilizing contractions, whether in literature, speeches, or everyday conversations, we can enhance the impact of our words, establish a relatable tone, and connect with our audience on a deeper level. So, let's embrace the power of contractions and unlock their potential in our own communication endeavors.

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