Even experienced writers get tripped up with anyway, any way, and anyways. Here is an explainer to help you distinguish between these similar-sounding expressions.
Using Anyway Correctly
Firstly, anyway can be defined as “nonetheless,” “in any case,” or “regardless.” Here is an example of how it is used:
The sign said “No Parking,” but I left my car there anyway.
You can also begin a sentence with anyway to indicate that you are continuing a previously-interrupted thought:
Anyway, I want to return to my earlier point.
You can feel confident using this word in your formal or business writing.
Using Any Way Correctly
As for any way, written with a space in the middle, it means “in any form” or “by any means.” Here are some examples of correct usage:
The musicians’ signature sound is recognizable any way they play it.
I told her to get the project finished any way she could think of.
Like with anyway, any way is appropriate in formal writing.
There is also a reasonably simple way to know if you should use any way. Try replacing the word any with in the. If the syntax of the resulting sentence still makes sense, then you should use the two-word phrase any way. Using the two examples above:
The musicians’ signature sound is recognizable in the way they play it.
I told her to get the project finished in the way she could think of.
You can see how these sentences still flow correctly. Conversely, the anyway examples above do not make sense:
The sign said “No Parking,” but I left my car there in the way.
In the way, I wish this story had a happier ending.
What about Anyways?
Is that even a word? The answer is yes, with a caveat. Anyways is a word with the same definition as anyway. It also appears in most dictionaries, but there is always a note included indicating that it is nonstandard.
Nonstandard words have found their way into English but are not appropriate for formal writing. According to Merriam-Webster, anyways is a corruption of the outdated word anywise, which means “in any way.” In earlier eras of English, adverbs often ended with s. Some words using this convention, like towards, still exist in standard English. Anyways may well originate from the same antique development, but it is not a standard word.
With that being said, you can feel free to use anyways in everyday life as an alternative to anyway. Ideally, you should keep it out of formal letters, press releases, or academic materials, though.
Be aware: some grammar scolds might quibble with your use of anyways, whatever the circumstances. To avoid debates of its acceptability, you can default to the universally accepted “s-less” relative. Otherwise, be ready for a series of arguments with persnickety language people.
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