Regardless vs. Irregardless: Which Is Right?

Lighthouse On CoastA reader reports still hearing irregardless in the workplace and wonders if it has come into general acceptance.

This ruthless editor must say no, at least not in terms of what is considered standard English.

Regardless is defined as having or showing no regard; without concern as to advice or warning; not paying attention to the present situation.

  • We decided go to the coast, regardless of the weather report.
  • Regardless of her fear of heights, she decided to climb the tower.
  • She wants to go to Europe, regardless of the length of the flight.

If you add the prefix ir, which means non- or not, you end up with a double negative: irregardless, or not regardless.

If regardless means showing no regard for, then irregardless means not showing no regard for, a double negative that translates to showing regard.

Remember this advertising jingle about Sara Lee:

Everybody doesn’t like something,
But nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee!

If no one does not like Sara Lee, then everyone likes Sara Lee!

The prefix ir is related to il, in and im: All can mean non- or not:

ir precedes words that start with r: irregular, irresponsible, irrational
il precedes words that start with l: illegal, illiterate, illegible
in can precede a variety of words: inanimate, incomplete, indiscreet, inescapable, insincere
im also can precede a variety of words: immature, immobile, impartial, imperfect

 

Although irregardless is not standard usage, irrespective is, and it can be a substitute for regardless in most cases. Irrespective means without regard for; not taking into account.

  • Each dog in costume gets a treat, irrespective of how many show up dressed for Halloween.
  • Irrespective of the amount of gasoline tax revenue collected, no bridges are being repaired or replaced.

Given a choice, I’d likely opt for regardless because it seems more straightforward. And it has three syllables, where irrespective has four.

Do you hear irregardless in conversations? Does it bother you, or has it gotten so common that you hardly notice?

Kathy Watson
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Kathy Watson

Kathy has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

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Kathy Watson
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