All Right! All Right! I'll Write About Why It's "Alwrong"!

by Tina Blue
Februrary 7, 2002

    I keep seeing it. 

    All my students make the same mistake, but how can I blame them when they so seldom see the correct spelling, while they so often encounter the incorrect version?

    I just finished reading a series of eight novels, and one of the author's favorite words is "alright."  Obviously, she needs an editor.  Every time I ran across that error, I winced as if someone had run fingernails across a blackboard.  AAARRRGH!

    Oh, sure, Webster's will tell you that "alright" is kind of all right, but actually, it isn't.  Just keep in mind that Webster's is a descriptive dictionary.  It does not serve as an arbiter of proper usage.

    All right, I will acknowledge that "alright" has a decent pedigree.  Its etymology puts it in the company of other all/al pairs, like all ready/already and all together/altogether.  Each of those pairs comes from a single Anglo-Saxon word, and variations in spelling among scribes and early printers led to different versions of the words.

   But unlike all ready/already and all together/altogether,all right/alright have not established themselves as separate words with separate meanings, so having two spellings for the same word serves no purpose. 

    At present, you will find "alright" in comic strips, advertisements, poorly edited popular works, and the writing of students who don't know any better until someone informs them of the proper usage.  But among those who do know better, "alright" is considered a vulgarism and is not accepted as standard usage.

    Would you like a mnemonic device to help you stay on the right side of us grouchy grammarians?  Think of it this way: If you write "alright," your usage will be "alwrong" and you will be considered "alwet."  So think of this rule as "alinclusive" and spell the darned thing as "ALL RIGHT."

   All right?

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