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Author Topic: With regard to “with regards to” or “as regards to”  (Read 335 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: March 29, 2017, 11:39:27 AM »

A few days ago, a reader who described her job as drafting letters and taking the minutes of meetings sent me e-mail about an all-too-familiar English usage predicament: “May I request you to write a column on the usage of ‘regard’, ‘regards’, and ‘regarding’? Is it correct to use ‘as regards to the…’ or ‘with regards to the…’? You see, every time I use ‘with regard to…’, my superior always adds ‘s’ to it and I can’t explain to him why the word ‘regard’ in that usage shouldn’t have an ‘s’.”

Here’s my open reply to that reader:

Many years ago, I encountered a similar predicament about the “with regards to…” idiom. One of my superiors in the company where I used to work had the imperious habit of using “with regards to…”—with “s” always affixed to the word “regard”—every time he wrote a memo: “With regards to your memo dated June 9, please be informed that…” The usage sounded so stiff to me, and I thought that “regarding,” “concerning,” or “about” would have done a more natural-sounding job: “Regarding your memo dated June 9, please be informed that…” “Concerning your memo dated June 9, please be informed that…” “About your memo dated June 9, please be informed that…”




Indeed, when I checked, I found out that “with regards to…” (along with its other dubious variant, “in regards to”) is actually nonstandard usage—what one language authority (The Columbia Guide to Standard American English) called a “shibboleth,” or a use of language regarded as distinctive of a particular group. In other words, it isn’t generally accepted usage; the standard usage is “with regard to…”: “With regard to your memo dated June 9, please be informed that…” As in the case of the inquiring reader, however, I knew my place in the scheme of things and made no attempt to correct my superior. (After all, you shouldn’t lose your job for having English grammar that’s better than that of your boss.)

So I imagine that until today, that boss of mine still blissfully foists “with regards to…” on superiors and subordinates alike in his memos wherever he’s working now. You see, people who acquire such questionable usage often need the hammer-and-anvil of experience—perhaps a strong-minded superior who knows his or her English usage better —to finally correct themselves.

Other than “regarding,” of course, two other “regard” idioms are considered standard usage: “as regards…” and “in regard to…”: “As regards your request for transfer, please furnish us with…” “In regard to your request for transfer, please furnish us with…” As an advocate for plain and simple English, however, I would advise against their use. Even if many lawyers, bureaucrats, and corporate types find them useful for giving an officious edge to their memos, I think that our memos would sound much more pleasant and engaging—and get better results—if they used just plain “regarding,” “concerning,” or “about” instead: “Regarding your request for transfer, please furnish us with…” “Concerning your request for transfer, please furnish us with…” “About your request for transfer, please furnish us with…”

Now, if “with regards to…” and “in regards to” are indeed substandard usage, why is it that people fall into the often-intractable habit of using them? I think it’s because there are actually three similar-sounding “regards” idioms that are standard usage: “give my regards,” “extend my regards,” and “with my regards.” These idioms, however, are not in the same semantic league as “with regards to…” and “in regards to.” Instead, they are expressions of good wishes, the stuff of conventional closings for letters and for other situations that require parting words, as in these expressions: “Give my regards to your wife and children.” “Please extend my regards to the staff.”

And I’ll now use the third such “regards” expression to close this open letter of mine:

With my best regards,
Joe Carillo                           (2007)

This essay, 540th in the series, first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the June 11, 2007 issue of The Manila Times, © 2007 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
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