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Gonna

Gonna, the colloquial abbreviation of going to, has been around for hundreds of years and is present in virtually every variety of English, but it has never gained acceptance in serious writing. In fact, gonna is more common than going to in all but the most formal speech, yet the bias against gonna in writing is deeply entrenched.

The bias is so entrenched, in fact, that publications often replace gonna with going to in quoted speech and transcribed interviews. And this can be a problem. For example, consider these two quotations of the same words spoken by Mitt Romney:

“… We’re not going to raise anywhere near that kind of money,” he told reporters. [CNN]

“We’re not gonna raise anywhere near that kind of money,” he said. [Politico]

Although the impulse to change gonna to going to is understandable (writers and editors stamp out gonna and similar colloquialisms out of habit), preserving gonna is better in this case. Changing Romney’s gonna to going to makes his words sound more formal than they are, and this small difference matters in political speech. In the carefully calculated words of politicians, gonna says, “I’m folksy,” which is especially important for an unfolksy politician such as Romney.


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Gonna doesn’t only appear in speech. For example, these writers use it to create a colloquial tone:

Remember how LeBron James cautioned the haters that they were gonna have to get back to the real world eventually? [Washington Post]

Our ad campaign ain’t gonna work. [Sydney Morning Herald]

Horace Greeley said to go west. We say go North by Northeast. Who ya gonna believe? [Globe and Mail]

Although gonna works in these cases, it’s generally considered out of place in formal writing.

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