I think we have a strong, American impulse that tells us to do something despite someone else’s warning to not do that very thing. I’m sure someone cautioned motorcycle stuntman Evel Knievel not to attempt jumping over a box of 50 rattlesnakes followed by two mountain lions in 1965, but he did it anyway. I suppose it doesn’t matter that he bumped into the edge of the box of snakes when he landed, causing the onlookers to scramble for their lives, because this stunt literally launched Knievel’s career as an entertainer and household name.
Now it’s time to launch into today’s grammar lesson. When should you use “anyway” and when should you use “any way”? And is “anyways” ever acceptable? Let’s jump in.
Anyway means “in any case” or “regardless.” Even though many people warned him, Evel Knievel attempted to jump across the canyon anyway. You can also use anyway to signal you’re continuing a story that was interrupted. “So, anyway, I told the guy, ‘That’s not even my dog!’ Jeff joked.”
When it comes to “any way” as two words, the rules are different. The word “any” modifies “way.” Any way means “by any manner” or “by any method.” For example: There wasn’t any way the rattlesnakes were going to go back into the box voluntarily. In order to get my kids to go to sleep at night, I’ll bribe them in any way I can.
“Anyways” is a nonstandard, or colloquial, way of saying “anyway.” I wouldn’t advise you to use it in a formal speech (like while delivering a eulogy or a State of the Union address), but it’s not necessarily wrong. Use it only in informal speech or writing.
However, as soon as I try to forbid you from using “anyways” in your lexicon, you’re totally going to do it. It’s just like when someone told Evel Kneivel he couldn’t jump over 50 cars—he did it anyway. As soon as anyone attempts to limit the American psyche or tell us we can’t do something, we answer the doubters and haters by saying, “Just watch me.” Just make sure the snakes stay in their box this time.
Curtis Honeycutt is a nationally award-winning syndicated humor writer. Connect with him on Twitter (@curtishoneycutt) or at curtishoneycutt.com.