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.]