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Standard vs. Nonstandard Phrases And Words With More Than One Spelling

Below you’ll find a fun list of standard vs. nonstandard phrases. Standard American English is an ever-evolving entity, and experts disagree on many aspects of what is “correct,” and as a result, many of us use slightly different spellings for the same words. Dictionaries and textbooks vary when it comes to standards of usage, and it is often up to the writer to determine which rules of grammar to follow.

But when it comes to word choice, should you use toward or towards? Cannot or can not? If you’re like most writers, you turn to the dictionary and discover that towards is listed as a “variant,” which leads you to believe it is “nonstandard.” What does that mean? Is it correct or not? Does that help you to know how to spell it? Dictionaries list nonstandard words to indicate that they are commonly used but are not necessarily correct.

You’ll also find jargon and colloquialisms in the dictionary, but you wouldn’t use the word “ain’t” in your personal essay just because it’s in the dictionary. (Naturally, you could use it in dialogue.) In other words, err on the side of standard usage.

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Standard American English is “substantially uniform and well-established by usage in the speech and writing of the educated and widely recognized as acceptable” according to Merriam-Webster. Based on that definition, we have put together the following list of standard and nonstandard words and phrases.

Standard Nonstandard
a lot alot
all right alright
anyway anyways
considered to be considered as
in comparison to in comparison with
in contrast to in contrast with
somewhat kind of
regarded as regarded to be
regardless irregardless
would have would of
might have might of
in regard to in regards to
should have should of
thus thusly
use utilize

Next time you see words with multiple spellings, remember to use the American standard spelling when possible. Also, REMEMBER TO CHECK OUT OUR LIST OF WRITING CONTESTS and ANTHOLOGIES! You won’t find a better list anywhere (AND IT’S FREE!) of upcoming anthologies, special-themed journals, and contests.

2 Responses to Standard vs. Nonstandard Phrases And Words With More Than One Spelling

  1. I definitely agree with Victor on the specifics he pointed out. But there are precedents sometimes such as with ‘All right – Alright’ and its similarities with ‘Already’ being an accepted term in English. Non-standard spellings ‘but’ less so phrases are sometimes simply considered archaic. Or as is the case for my attitudes, behaviours, and up-bringing with/towards spelling, they may simply be the original phrase or word as is the case with ‘Tit-bit instead of ‘Tid-bit’. Or perhaps they are of a foreign derivation (foreign to the U.S. based upon this site’s scheme), but have a similar meaning with perhaps similar connotations.

  2. It seems that deviation from the standard English like it’s mine to its mines undermines the differencitiation of the meanings of words &’impedes communicatation

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