Saturday, October 2, 2010

Word Nerd: All Right

What people write: alright

Correct expression: all right

Meaning: agreed; okay; without a doubt.

The adverb all right frequently appears as a single word, alright, in fictional dialogue and on web sites without copy editors (e.g. Huffington Post, Gawker). Yet the one-word spelling is not accepted as standard by any respected dictionary or style guide. 
  • The AP Stylebook is categoric. 'Never alright.'
  • Strunk & White's The Elements of Style says, 'Properly written as two words—all right.'
  • The Chicago Manual of Style states, 'Two words. Avoid alright.'

  • It's all right if you don't want to come with me to the movies.
  • I thought I did all right at volleyball tryouts, but I'm not sure I'll make the team. 
  • All right, already! I took the last piece of pie, and I'm not sorry!


  1. The trouble is that for prescriptivists like the AP Stylebook, it doesn't matter how many hundred years a form is in use and considered correct (or even diverges in meaning) before they will allow it "into their club."

    "Altogether" and "all together" are not synonymous. The same is true for other words in this class. Poor little "alright" simply came into vogue, and the senses diverged, later in the game. But the fact stands that today, it is completely false to say that "alright" is merely a misspelled synonym of "all right."

    Here's just one example, analogous to yours about volleyball, but expanded to show the difference:

    j: How'd you do on your test?

    a: Oh, I did alright, I guess. I mean, I didn't get the bonus questions all right, but maybe I'll get a B.

  2. I think the Oxford English Dictionary counts as "respectable"; more so than Strunk & White.

    1. Alright is listed in the OED because it's British English. Alright is accepted in British English, but it's nonstandard in American English. Patrick, often it's more about convention than being right or wrong.

  3. It won't be too difficult for the students to understand about the possible instances and favorably students would almost be more delighted.