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In colloquial speech I have often found the word es contracted as 's, but usually attached to a previous word, for example:

Gibt's noch Fragen?

But can it only be used in that context, or can it also be contracted this way at the beginning of a sentence or clause, for example:

Ich glaub, 's war nur ein Witz.

'S ist Viertel nach zehn.

This is for a translation of a computer game in which some of the characters' speech is much less proper than others; the English is written as if they are dropping numerous letters and using bad grammar.

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Ich glaub, 's war nur ein Witz.

This is okay if you want to mark it as non-stilted speech. But I have to disappoint you. You can't mark a character as someone who speaks less properly that way. As we all speak like that, even seasoned authors.

'S ist Viertel nach zehn.

This is not how people speak. They instead say

Ist Viertel nach zehn.

Spoken German allows dropping the topic. We do that all the time in speech.

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  • So I can leave out the es at the beginning of a sentence, but can I do so at the beginning of a clause, i.e. "ich glaub, war nur ein Witz?" Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 22:32
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    That's possible but less likely because of the rhythm.
    – Janka
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 1:45
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    Konfuzius sagt: "S'is, wie's is"
    – tofro
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 9:14
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    What you might hear is "War nur ein Witz, glaub ich."
    – RHa
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 9:40
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    Ich würde sogar sagen, dass "Is' Viertel nach Zehn" gebräuchlicher im Gesprochenen ist als das ausgesprochene 't' von 'ist'. Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 13:39
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Yes, »es« can be abbreviated at the beginning of a sentence, but you have to write the remaining letter in lower case.

»Wie ist das Wetter?«
»'s regnet.«
»Und was brauchst du?«
»'s fehlt an allem.«

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