Nonstandard Words to Avoid in Business Correspondence

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Nonstandard Words to Avoid in Business Correspondence

by Sarah Johnson
Have you ever heard somebody use a word in a way that doesn’t sound quite right, but somehow they make it work in their sentence? You try to remember to look it up when you get home to see if it really is a word before you start using it yourself, but of course you forget because you only have a million and twelve other things going on in your life right now. There’s a good chance that the word you heard was actually a nonstandard word.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a nonstandard word is one that is “not accepted or used by most of the educated speakers and writers of a language.” In other words, you can use these words in everyday conversation, but I would advise against using them in formal language or business correspondence.

Never use these Nonstandard Words or Phrases in Business Writing

Many of these words can be found in English dictionaries; However, they will likely be listed as “nonstandard” to let you know that they’re not widely accepted in the English language.

Anyways – There is simply no reason to add an “s” to the end of “anyway.” Stop listening to Nike and just don’t do it.

Alright – Okay, I’m guilty of using this one quite frequently. I blame it on a love for British literature, as it happens to be much more tolerant of this one-worded version of “all right.” Nevertheless, it is not all right to use “alright” in formal English language.

Can’t hardly – Many people use this phrase in place of “can hardly,” which completely changes the meaning. “Can’t hardly” is considered a double negative. By saying you “can’t hardly wait” for something, you’re implying that you actually can wait for it.

Conversate – This is a back-formation of conversation, which originally came about in 1973. People often use it as a verb in place of “converse.” Ex: He was really quiet and had no desire to conversate with me.

Irregardless – For some reason people have added the negative prefix of “ir” to the word, “regardless.” Since “regardless” is already a negative word, that makes “irregardless” a double negative, and therefore nonstandard.

Should of – This phrase often gets used in place of “should have.” People get confused when they hear the sound of the contraction “should’ve” in a sentence, thinking it’s two separate words: “should of.” If you’re not going to use the contraction, you should always use “should have” instead.

When it’s okay to use Nonstandard Words

There are times when it’s okay to use nonstandard words. If you’re talking with friends or you’re with an informal social group, by all means use them as you would any other words. Many of them are still widely accepted in everyday language. The only time you really need to avoid nonstandard words is when you’re corresponding with somebody in a professional manner. There are a lot of professionals out there who will judge you on your word choice, so be careful that you don’t give them the wrong impression.

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

-Abraham Lincoln

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