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Wednesday, September 13th, 2017 technology  research  practice

A Research Tip

  • Research & Writing

Feeling respect and regard for your readers is important, but this edition is more specifically about words and phrases derived from respect and regard.

Regard and derivatives
First, regards as opposed to regard.

Regards are what you express, typically at the end of a letter or e-mail, in order to sound friendly; but as your humble scribe has previously said, you could usefully dispense with them altogether – they add nothing (see Beginnings and endings).

In any event, do NOT say with regards to or in regards to. Here, the correct word is regard (singular). Better yet, just say about or on.

Irregardless is not a word (or at least not in the standard English you want to be using): you mean regardless (or perhaps irrespective).

Respect and derivatives
Respect can be used like regards, to express esteem for another person. In professional writing , this may sound a bit too Ali G (‘Massive respect …‘).

When you disagree with someone, you should also avoid that leaden opener With respect …, which usually indicates that the writer has anything but respectful thoughts about the reader.

The adverb respectfully is just as bad, if not worse. Use it in a factum if you must, but don’t lard the thing with it.  As Justice Laskin has said: ‘Avoid using the phrase “it is respectfully submitted” more than twice in your factum. […] Repeated too often, this phrase disrupts the force and flow of your argument’. It also sounds pompous and old-fashioned.

In a legal setting, try to confine respect to these two phrases: with respect to and in respect of. But here again, you’re better off going with a simpler construction entirely, like good old about. And to say respecting in this sense looks like you’re writing with a quill pen.

Respectively is frequently misused. It needs to connect items in one list with their counterparts in a second list in the same sentence.  Fowler’s Modern English Usage entertainingly lists five types of incorrect use, but space doesn’t permit full discussion here.

This is wrong: X, Y and Z respectively guarantee Z’s obligations.

This is correct: X, Y and Z shall not make capital expenditures in any fiscal year in excess of $5 million, $3 million and $1 million, respectively. [Examples adapted from Ross Guberman and Gary Karl’s Deal Struck: The World’s Best Drafting Tips (2014).]

Next time: just how frequently is that?

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

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