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I often hear in English conversation or movies the contraction "ain't" (for "isn't"), but I am more surprised to see it in writing (and I am not referring to a novel, where I can understand its usage: convey common oral expressions in a text)

See this question (on a technical forum) for instance:
"There ain’t ListBox.SelectionMode=“None”, is there another way to disable selection in a listbox?"

Is it appropriate in that context (formal written technical question)?

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I think that is an inappropriate use of ain't since it doesn't add any value to the sentence but rather makes you wonder why he used it in a context in which one expects a higher register of correct written language. A more appropriate use would be to e.g. express stubbornness, e.g. "that dog just ain't gonna budge, is he?" – Edward Tanguay Aug 7 '10 at 23:36
up vote 15 down vote accepted

"Ain't" is generally pretty stigmatized; it is widely used in African American Vernacular English and Southern English. If someone uses it in a more formal context, it is likely that they want to convey a casual or insouciant attitude. However, any native English speaker knows what it means, so there should be no issue in terms of communication. On the other hand you might justify not using it on the grounds that it might give non-native speakers some trouble.

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Plus, it was originally the contraction for "am not," so even if someone insists it's not obsolete, it still can't replace "isn't." – kitukwfyer Aug 6 '10 at 7:28
It's always made me awfully said that amn't isn't a word, and that I can't use ain't either. – Charlie Aug 6 '10 at 16:16
@itrekkie: Awfully "said?" Yes, it is quite depursing. ;-o – MikeSchinkel Sep 11 '10 at 22:03
@kitukwfyer: The original words making up the contraction don't prove anything about grammaticality or correctness though. As one example, just look at the fact that we happily use the construction "aren't I" in place of "am I not", and this is standard. – Kosmonaut Oct 10 '10 at 15:47
@Kosmonaut: I know. Saying "aren't I" bothers me a lot...Much more so than saying/ hearing "ain't it" actually. I intended to just throw the fact out there for general consumption, but my wording doesn't match my intention in retrospect...Oh well. Point taken. :) – kitukwfyer Oct 11 '10 at 2:37

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