Unlike other word pairings, these words are not blatant uses of the wrong word. The differences are subtler than that. Similar confusion exists with other word pairs such as every day/everyday and any one/anyone. Let’s try to unravel the mystery and shed some light on these problematic words.
When to Use Any Way
Any way is a phrase that emphasizes the use any method and manner to achieve a goal or describe something. It consists of an adjective, any, and a noun, way. You could add modifiers to change its context or to make a stronger point such as, “any humanly way.” You can add to it, modify it and change it to fit the meaning you want.
Just because it includes the same words, the linkage of the two changes its meaning. With any way and anyway, anyway is an adverb and not a phrase. That fact alone ties it to certain uses. An adverb modifies another word, whether it’s an adjective, verb or even another adverb. And unlike what you learned in grade school, all adverbs do not have to end with -ly.
Synonyms for it include regardless, nonetheless and however. Those words provide a smart way for you to double check your usage. When in doubt, substitute one of these words for seeing if the sentence flows and it makes sense.
Anyway has another usage that probably doesn’t lend itself to the same error often unless it’s just a spelling error. In colloquial speech, you may see it used as a joiner to pick up the thread of a story or cut to the chase.
Let’s take one of our any way examples to show you how to proofread your writing. Using a synonym for anyway, we have “Regardless you can figure out a way to make ends meet, do it.” Not quite the same thing, is it? It still sounds awkward if you use any of the others. That’s your clue if you’re not using the right word.
There’s another variation of anyway that you may occasionally see which is spelled as anyways. Unlike the two we’ve discussed above, anyways is simply bad grammar. It has no place in formal writing, but you can use it in dialogue to add an informal tone to your work.
Using any way vs anyway correctly is a matter of remembering how each one is used. Any way is a phrase with two parts of speech, whereas anyway is only an adverb. Anyway, the handy trick of substituting a synonym like regardless can help you check if you’re on the right track.