Irregardless and the Controversy It Sparks: Why the Right Prefixes Matter

Posted: January 17th, 2014, 4:10 pm   By: brittany.corners

Prefixes are important for changing the meaning of words without requiring the use of additional words. You see them so frequently that you probably do not even consciously think of them. From words like “unacceptable,” “semiconscious” and “recover” to those words with suffixes that require hyphens, the use of prefixes allows you to write more concisely. What happens when you incorrectly form a non-existent word?

Well, you could find yourself featured on a SNL spoof with Will Ferrel poking fun at you, as former President George W. Bush would tell you was not part of his “strategery” to boost public opinion about his intelligence level.

“Irregardless” is one of those non-words that is used (erroneously) by many writers – beginners and professionals alike that is a hybrid formation of “regardless” of “irrespective.” While many dictionaries have an entry for this non-word, the definition usually says something along the lines of “non-standard. Regardless.”

Incorrect: Irregardless of Tiny Fey’s insistence she was wearing a beautiful dress, her wit did not save her from making the 2012 Ocsar’s Worst-Dressed list.

Correct: Regardless of the child gate blocking the doorway, one clever little fellow ingeniously found a way over the gate.

Even though this word has gained popularity over the course of the 20th century, the truth boils down to the simple fact that it is not a word. Think about it. The prefix “ir” means “without.” The suffix attached to the end means “without.” Essentially, irregardless creates a nonsensical word by definition. What does using a nonexistent word (that is widely known as such, despite the controversy’s proponents of its use) do to the people who read what you write. It tells them one of two things:

  1. You want to look more intelligent or smarter, but have tragically failed by using a word that does not exist.
  2. You want to use words that sound cool even though they do not exist.

As a result, you probably lose your readers’ attention because instead of them focusing on what you wrote, they are focusing on the fact that you used a non-existent word and are calling your grasp of English and your legitimacy into question. Simply looking up words when you are adding prefixes makes your stance on the “irregardless” controversy unimportant, as avoiding non-standard words in professional writing is always the best course of action. Unless, of course, you want to break Stewie’s law.