Editing Tip #36

The Wonderful World of Words, Pt.2: Dueling the Negative Prefix ~

duelAs I mentioned previously, in Pt.1, there are certain words we use in casual conversation that are meant for, well, conversation only. Often what happens is an unsuspecting word doesn’t seem ‘strong’ enough or to contain the right amount of ‘power’ that the speaker wants to emphasize and if they’re not an English major (and really, there aren’t that many of us) their vocabulary may be limited. It’s when these personal limitations are reached that speakers start getting creative.

The word irregardless is one of those spoken ‘power’ words that, quite frankly, doesn’t exist and doesn’t make sense.

Why?

Regardless means: despite what’s going on (0r something similar).

Ir- is a prefix meaning: not or the opposite of.

When you put the two together they create a negative – despite then becomes because of or on account of which is the opposite of what you’re trying to get across.

As writers, part of the craft is choosing the right word for the right moment to bring clarity of intent to our readers. It’s perfectly acceptable to have your character speak or think irregardless, but not your narrator (unless it’s first person, stream-of-consciousness because then you’re in the head of the main character constantly). After all – people talk like that and it shows a lot about a character if they use it as part of their vocabulary.

What the use of irregardless might say about the character:

– minimal amount of schooling

– smart but says it to ‘fit in’ with the social level they’re around or grew up in

– self-taught and trying to sound smarter than they are

– self-taught and don’t know any better

Irregardless of how you use it, you should be aware of why it exists and how much it bothers agents, editors, and English majors alike 🙂


 

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