Words are sensory and emotional things for me and always have been, and I’m pretty sure it’s related to being autistic. Here are some examples.
Random sensory impressions. While feels summery; whilst feels wintry. Maybe it’s because of the ‘st’ at the end, like frost or something. Towards feels meandering, like a river headed in a particular direction; toward feels crisper, more made of solid things than water.
The little things. I notice really small details in how people talk and write. Not everything, but a lot of things. Like people using an S in towards or not. Or anyway, for that matter. I’ve noticed that people who say anyways exclusively don’t use toward as their primary variant, but people who say anyway can go either way. I personally alternate between towards and toward, but have never used anyways outside character dialogue. Apparently people don’t notice this much, because I’ve seen cases where both versions appeared in the same sentence! It’s something I notice though, and I just try to keep the variant consistent within a document (I can’t predict what comes out of my mouth when I talk though…). I notice if you use the Oxford comma or not. (Admittedly I’m really inconsistent with this. Growing up, I used it without exception, but as an adult I’ve become more lax with it. xD I omit it about 3/4 of the time.) I also notice which punctuation style you use – logical or British-style (where a comma or full point appears outside the quotation marks if it’s not part of the quoted material), or American-style (where commas and periods appear inside quotation marks regardless). As an aside, it’s never correct to put semicolons, colons, question marks or any other punctuation inside quotation marks. I go back and forth between both punctuation styles, but I keep them consistent within a document.
Pet peeves. I can’t stand it when people misuse apostrophes or quotation marks. Or when I come across news articles that say U.S. sanctions, but then go on to talk about the UK parliament and UN resolutions. Either say US sanctions, UK parliament and UN resolutions, or U.S. sanctions, U.K. parliament and U.N. resolutions. Why is US an exception? It’s obvious the pronoun isn’t meant, because it’s capitalised.
Spelling variants. I feel like Commonwealth (British, Irish, Australian, Canadian to some extent) spellings look more complete, and a lot of American ones look comparatively disappointing, ugly, harsh or all of the above. Seeing colour (or similar words like favourite or honour) missing the U feels like a letdown, as though there’s a big lacuna inside the word. It’s actually saddening when I’m feeling very sensitive about words. I’ve been using British spellings exclusively in personal writing for the past ten years – a habit I picked up from talking to a lot of Commonwealth English writers (mostly Australians and British people) online, and realising that I actually preferred those standards – and often write around a disliked spelling if I’m doing something for work and it would look weird for me to write the way I normally would (for example, if I’m writing in ‘company voice’). Paralyze (and other -lyze words) is like nails on a blackboard – I can’t stand it, and I remember hating the lyze spelling (the British form is paralyse) before I actually started using British spellings. The same goes for theater – I wince every time I see it written that way, especially when referring to live performance. Gray feels harsh and growly (unless it’s a surname); grey feels like… well, what it’s supposed to mean. Esthetic is probably my least favourite – though at least in that case, even most American publications don’t use that spelling. I see it very rarely.
I can switch back and forth between spelling standards as needed and don’t really get confused, though there are a few words that I NEVER write the American (or American-only, if American dictionaries allow both variants) way, ever. Those words are theatre, aesthetic, grey, cancelled (and similar verbs) and succour. I also lean towards using British spellings for technical terms like anaesthesia, haemoglobin and oestrogen because those are the first ones I encountered. I lived in the UK from age 4-7, was hyperlexic and had a book bought at either WH Smith or Waterstones (can’t remember which one) about the human body that was written for older children or teenagers and was full of technical terms. I encountered the US forms of the words relatively later, and they’ve always looked wrong to me – that’s not even as much of a sensory thing as it is my brain’s mistake detector setting off. I’m not judging people for using spellings they’re used to – I’m just describing my personal, subjective feelings about them.