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do not or don't
Thread poster: adremco
adremco
Local time: 04:45
English to Dutch
+ ...
Nov 8, 2009

For lack of a better option I'm posting my question in learning languages... This might even be a poll: o you religiously avoid using abreviations like don't and doesn't in your translations into English? I'm translating a document that contains the following sentence, and my fingers are itching to use "doesn't":

This is something we've heard before and because email often does not function properly, we now maintain regular contact through...

--

Here also, I'm inclined to use don't:

caring for children – who often do not have parents and were raised by grandparents or in orphanages – is problematic.


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Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:45
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
Do not and does not Nov 8, 2009

Hi Adremco

Nice question, I am not an English native, but I am inclined to use do not and does not, unless in informal messages.

In your text I would use do not and does not.

But let's wait opinions of native colleagues.

Angio

P.S. Editing to say that I would also use "we have heard" and not the contracted form.


[Edited at 2009-11-08 11:17 GMT]


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 03:45
English to Croatian
+ ...
Full forms in formal written documents = a rule Nov 8, 2009

If it is a formal document, then it is definitely proper to use full forms, i.e. do not, does not, I am not etc..

If it's a very informal tone and it serves stylistic purpose, then you may use contracted forms, i.e. don't , I'm, I'd etc...




[Edited at 2009-11-08 11:05 GMT]


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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 03:45
Italian to English
There are other options Nov 8, 2009

adremco wrote:

This is something we've heard before and because email often does not function properly, we now maintain regular contact through...



I probably wouldn't use either.

Have you considered shifting the negation to a dynamic verb (email often fails to function) or an adjective (email is often unreliable)? This would give the negative notion more visibility than it gets tacked onto an auxiliary.



Here also, I'm inclined to use don't:

caring for children – who often do not have parents and were raised by grandparents or in orphanages – is problematic.



In spoken English, you could stress "don't" to contrast with earlier or implied references to children with parents but this option is not available in the written language. The full "do not" form is emphatic and probably clearer, or again you could reformulate (children who are often parentless).

A lot depends on context and purpose, though.

FWIW

Giles


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Laurie Price  Identity Verified
Mexico
Spanish to English
+ ...
The AP stylebook indicates ... Nov 8, 2009

that unless you are writing (or translating) informal speech, you should "avoid excessive use of contractions."

It goes on to say, "Contractions listed in the dictionary are acceptable, however, in informal contexts where they reflect the way a phrase commonly appears in speech or writing."

My general rule is to avoid them. I've worked in editorial for around 20 years, and have also taught Proofreading in a professional capacity. This is one of the general rules I have taught to my students and have observed while editing, proofreading or translating.

Bear in mind who the document is intended for (i.e., industry) and who will be reading the document (i.e., clients). It's generally the accepted practice to avoid using contractions in business and educational documents, and for documents that will be published in any capacity.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 03:45
English to Croatian
+ ...
Academic writing Nov 8, 2009

I know for a fact that short forms are not allowed in academic essays. For example: you will never use short forms in a PhD thesis or other formal academic presentations, not allowed.

In other writing "genres", you can combine short with full forms etc, depending on the style and tone.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:45
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
There are few absolute rules nowadays Nov 8, 2009

For me, it depends entirely on the type of text you're dealing with. This is backed up by comments on two interesting sites:

http://blog.writersdigest.com/qq/CategoryView,category,Grammar.aspx
(the article on contractions is near the end)

http://www.helium.com/items/1634643-contractions-in-a-helium-article

Certainly a 100% factual, formal document would normally use full forms (no contractions). With other types of text, though, there are no absolute rules. The rule of no contractions in written English was valid a generation or two ago but, as any EFL teacher will tell you, a lot has changed lately. An example is that my own father used to say to me "You can, but you may not, have an ice-cream". He hated me, as an EFL teacher, teaching "can" for permission (i.e. in requests) as well as for ability.

Text of actual quoted speech would normally contain contractions - that's how we speak, after all. Not using contractions sounds stilted, particularly using "I would" and "I will" instead of the much more normal "I'd" and "I'll". Of course, even in speech we use the full forms of auxiliary verbs to add emphasis: e.g. "I would love to come, really I would"; "I will go, whether you like it or not!". In short, quoted speech should read as it sounds.

In other circumstances, it's a matter of style. Using contractions puts you into a more relaxed, informal relationship with your reader. If you are writing your own text, you can decide - there is no absolute rule. Of course, as a translator you have to try to second-guess the author, not always an easy job, but often there are indications in the source text of informal vs formal language.

One final point is that contractions are more quickly adopted in texts written in the first person. By their very nature they are more personal.


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 22:45
Spanish to English
+ ...
Consistency Nov 8, 2009

adremco wrote:

... I'm translating a document that contains the following sentence, and my fingers are itching to use "doesn't":

This is something we've heard before and because email often does not function properly, we now maintain regular contact through...


I'm just wondering why adremco is so uncertain about the contraction of does not in a sentence where (s)he is apparently quite happy to contract we have into we've.

Is there some subtle rule that makes one contraction automatically acceptable and the other not?

I'll answer my own question - No, of course there's not!

That said, having decided that we've is OK in a specific (con)text, then it is important to be consistent and use other contractions, where they fit naturally within the chosen style.

MediaMatrix


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polyglot45
English to French
+ ...
@sheila Nov 8, 2009

You said: "An example is that my own father used to say to me "You can, but you may not, have an ice-cream". He hated me, as an EFL teacher, teaching "can" for permission (i.e. in requests) as well as for ability."

For me this begs the question of why you taught/teach students something you know is not technically correct. I don't wish to embark on a polemic about language and its evolution - the pros and cons - but would simply point out that, in this particular case, by accepting a "simplification" you are in fact helping to impoverish the language by eliminating a subtle but all-important nuance.

If only on those grounds I would venture to say that some keeping up of standards is vital. Wouldn't you agree?


[Edited at 2009-11-08 13:20 GMT]


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adremco
Local time: 04:45
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Excellent reactions Nov 8, 2009

I have to admit the 'we've' part went completely on autopilot, I only saw it when someone pointed it out. It's the only one in the text though. Good tip also about checking the source text for tone, see what they do. I think it's pretty formal, and shan't use anymore contradictions. Giles, thanks for your suggestions, used them both. Have a nice day all!

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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 03:45
Italian to English
Academic style Nov 8, 2009

Lingua 5B wrote:

I know for a fact that short forms are not allowed in academic essays.



Some academic publishers are a little more relaxed about this issue.

"Common verbal contractions, such as I'm, can't, it's, mustn't, he'll, are perfectly acceptable in less formal writing, and are frequently found (and may be kept) even in academic works. However, editors should not impose them except to maintain consistency within a varying text" (Oxford Style Manual, p.65).


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:45
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Please allow language to evolve Nov 8, 2009

I'm afraid I can't go along with anything you said in reply to my post, Polyglot45.

polyglot45 wrote:
You said: "An example is that my own father used to say to me "You can, but you may not, have an ice-cream". He hated me, as an EFL teacher, teaching "can" for permission (i.e. in requests) as well as for ability."

For me this begs the question of why you taught/teach students something you know is not technically correct.


Were I in my early twenties, just starting on a teaching career, then I would probably see some sense in that. However, I'm 54 and teaching my students (business people) what was correct 50 years ago, without any thought of how the language has evolved since then, would be doing them a great disservice.

It is technically correct - look at any current grammar book or English course book and you will see that is true. To quote from "Grammar In Use", Richard Murphy's bestseller:
To ask for something we use Can I have ...? or Could I have ...?
"Can I have these postcards, please?"
May I have ...? is also possible (but less usual)

It's true that English is becoming simpler (comparative adjectives being a case in point, with "more simple" as an alternative form), but this is not a dropping of standards, just an accepted change that should be taken on board by all teachers. Surely you don't think I should teach my students to finish their business letters "I remain, Sir, your faithful and humble servant"?

In the same way, the use of the written contracted form is now more widespread, without being universal. This reflects a general trend, not only in language but in society, towards greater informality. For a thesis or a covering letter I have no hesitation in giving an unequivocal "no contractions"; for many documents, it depends on a lot of factors and "don't" is not necessarily incorrect.


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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 03:45
Italian to English
Pragmatics and grammar Nov 8, 2009

Sheila Wilson wrote:

"Can I have these postcards, please?"
May I have ...? is also possible (but less usual)



In purely pragmatic terms, both "can" and "may" are of course quite possible, in the sense that both should produce the desired response (yes or no).

It's a pity, though, that the necessarily pragmatic focus of ELT means that many students never realise there is a functional difference between the dynamic use of the modal "can", which is similar to the Italian "posso", and the deontic focus of "may", which is performative and quite unlike Italian "verbi servili".

Giles


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:45
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Re: Pragmatics and grammar Nov 8, 2009

It's true, Giles, that pragmatic considerations are uppermost in the minds of my students. They need above all to learn how to communicate in English. Deontology and Italian verbs are, generally speaking, very far from their minds.

Of course, promoters of the Plain English Campaign would say that communication is the primary aim of all language learning and acquisition, an aim reinforced by the position of English as the international language.

As an ELT trainer, I believe one of my principal objectives to be the breaking down of barriers to learning, enabling my students to act on an international stage with the resources that I can afford them within the constraints of time, budget and their own abilities. As a translator, I aim to provide the readers with a text that is 100% comprehensible, that they can understand without recourse to dictionaries and grammar books.

But we digress: I don't think contractions either help or hinder communication, they simply serve to alter the register - a not insignificant factor in a translation.

[Edited at 2009-11-08 22:13 GMT]


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Laurie Price  Identity Verified
Mexico
Spanish to English
+ ...
to polyglot45 Nov 8, 2009

Uy yuy yuy is a phrase I learned growing up in NYC ...

Either when pronounced or when read this phrase is understood readily by native English speakers and non-native speakers alike.

People and their documents have something to communicate and are both bound by social conventions. In certain sectors of the business world contractions in print are "banned" while in other areas they are encouraged as a way of forming a connection with the reader.

The text must reflect the purpose it serves, as the way a person communicates should too.

Nowadays the brilliance of American English is that it is a truly inclusive language. To my knowledge, moreso than any other. As such I think it needs to be taught as a living language, and that means teaching it as it’s spoken. That doesn't mean that you don't teach full formal constructions, but that you point out their various 'profiles' while mirroring their actual usage.

Kudos to you Sheila Watson*

(my earlier post was in reference to biz and educational docs)


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