These Expressions Get No Respect Here

A reader of this column asks if any distinction exists between the phrases “in that respect” and “in that regard.”

“I tried to look this up,” the reader reports, “but nothing definitive emerged.”

Although “respect” implies emphasis on a detail or particular, the two locutions are so similar as to be equivalent. Both mean “in reference to.” One may also say “with respect to” or “with regard to” or “in regard to.” Avoid these locutions in the plural form – e.g., “as regards” and “in regards to,” which are mistakes.

Plurals aside, the problem is not that these expressions are wrong but that they tend to sound excessively formal and old-fashioned. The best solution, say usage authorities, is to eschew all of them and substitute a single simpler word, such as “about,” “concerning,” or “considering.” Depending on the context, an even shorter preposition may be suitable, such as “in,” “on,” or “for.”

This is another situation where a venerable rule of effective writing applies: “Omit needless words.”

[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book recently published by AWAI that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]

Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant for more than 30 years. He may be best known for his headline “Speak Spanish [French, German, etc.] Like a Diplomat!” This familiar series of ads sold spectacular numbers of recorded foreign language lessons for Audio-Forum, generating revenues that total in the tens of millions of dollars. In the process, the ad achieved the status of an industry classic. Don’s work is mentioned in three major college advertising textbooks, and examples of his promotions are cited in the books Million Dollar Mailings (1992) and World's Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters (1996). In a column in Advertising Age, his name was included in a short list of direct-marketing “superstars.” He has a parallel career as a writer on language and wordplay. His celebration of spoonerisms, Cruel and Unusual Puns (Dell, 1991), received rave reviews and quickly went into a second printing. His second book was Acronymania (Dell, 1993). Recently, Don retired from full-time copywriting in order to focus on other interests, including his passion for “recreational linguistics.” He is at work on a new book in that genre. He is a regular contributor to the magazine Word Ways and writes “The Language Perfectionist,” a weekly column on grammar and usage, for Early to Rise. Don is author of The Versatile Freelancer,an e-book from American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI) that shows copywriters – and almost anyone – how to diversify their careers into consulting, training, critiquing, and speaking.