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Grammar Central > Is "Alright" All Right?

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message 1: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18538 comments Mod
Where I come from, "alright" is "alwrong." That's right -- I was always taught (and supported by the dictionaries) that all right is two words and two words only.

Only a funny thing happened (ha ha). A few years ago I started seeing "alright" in magazines and newspapers. Now I'm seeing it in books.

Has "alright" stormed the ramparts? Is the war over? Is it alright to come out now?

message 2: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6389 comments Mod
I think it might be safe....Wikipedia says:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Look up alright in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.For other uses, see Alright (disambiguation).
Alright is a variant spelling of "all right" usually used in informal contexts.[1]

"Alright" has been in use since the late 19th century; while some authorities still consider it wrong or nonstandard[2][3][4], it frequently appears in print in journalistic and business settings and in informal communication[5]. This is in contrast to the similar words "already" and "altogether", which have been used as compound words and two separate words (all ready and all together) since the Middle Ages.

The word is often used to indicate ambivalence toward something: "the play was alright." It is also used as an exclamation of great pleasure: "We won the championship! Alright!"

"Alright" is commonly used as a greeting in the United Kingdom, as in: "Alright mate?", "Alright (name)?", or just "Alright?"
It's British origins may explain why we use this variant in NZ.

message 3: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18538 comments Mod
Ah, maybe it's a part of the British Vs. America war. Another topic entirely! You know how, post-Revolutionary War, Americans decided to spell differently (color v. colour, judgment v. judgement, theater v. theatre, etc.) and to punctuate differently (we put punctuation INSIDE the closing quotation mark... the Brits and I assume NZers put it OUTSIDE).

Anyway, that bit about being in use since lat 19th century is a News Flash to me (but then, a lot of things are).

message 4: by Lindsee (new)

Lindsee | 1 comments Interesting. The Associated Press Stylebook, the so called, "journalists bible," has an entry about all right. If you are a journalism or PR student, you are all too familiar with the AP Stylebook!

You will notice my use of two words. The entry here says:

all right

Never alright. Hyphenate only if used colloquially as a compound modifier: He is an all-right guy.

Sometimes newspapers have their own style guides, which may explain why you have seen it both ways.

So, when in doubt, use whichever you prefer! Just don't tell any journalism or mass communication professors if you go astray.

message 5: by Ken (last edited Feb 01, 2008 05:01PM) (new)

Ken | 18538 comments Mod
Hi, Lindsee. What's also maddening is how the world of journalism and the world of academia play by different rules.

For instance: journalists place book titles in quotation marks (e.g. "Anna Karenina"). Academic sorts (and all of us who picked up our rules from schools) either underline book titles or italicize them (e.g. Anna Karenina).

I think the intent is to drive us crazy (Exit 57 off the Jersey Turnpike). They should convene a big language summit and decide once and for all. No. Check that. A big language summit would lead to WWIII (punctuated by many arguments).

message 6: by rivka (new)

rivka Alas, I know all too many Americans who use "alright" -- including at least one grammar geek of my acquaintance!

When Merriam Webster has it, the battle is over.

message 7: by Walter (new)

Walter (wal-tor) | 7 comments It would seem to me that to say sentence like "The play was all right" would mean something very different from a sentence like "The play was alright." The first meaning something like it was good. The second meaning it was just okay.

Am I alone in this?

(I never knew about the punctuation difference with quotation marks, but what about with in a sentence like this?)?

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Agreed, kinda. With the connotation I have attached to the words, if I read that the play was all right, without context to the contrary I'd think that meant it was performed correctly. To me, all right = all correct (as in, her answers were all right). If I read the play was alright, I'd think the writer thought it was okay. Alright = ok or good (as in, don't worry, I'm alright). I've never known it to be hyphenated. Even as a compound modifier, I'd expect it to be merged. That may just be a generation thing.

Hearing whether it's all right or alright is another thing- I can't detect much difference. Actually, most people I hear saying the word(s) leave off the l's, or kind of turn them into a w-ish sound. Some even leave off the t sound at the end and make the i an longer dipthong. Aw'right. Awright. Awrai. Starts sounding like awry. Hee hee. Is that just a dialecticism (Midwest), or have others heard that as well?

message 9: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18538 comments Mod
Well, until the wall falls in Dictionary Land, we cannot compare "all right" with "alright" because there's no such thing as "alright" except in publications that print incorrect English.

(Trust me when I say, "I hear walls beginning to crumble.")

message 10: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 16263 comments Mod
Harper's Dictionary of English Usage points out that if we succumb to the use of alright we are already partially down the garden path in a handbasket to alwrong, alinclusive...

message 11: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18538 comments Mod
Yeah, they love to Harp on it...

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

:-) To echo Debbie's excerpt from the Wikipedia article with one from

From the American Heritage Dictionary, 2006 (under the entry for "all right"):
"Despite the appearance of the form alright in works of such well-known writers as Langston Hughes and James Joyce, the single word spelling has never been accepted as standard. This is peculiar, since similar fusions such as already and altogether have never raised any objections. The difference may lie in the fact that already and altogether became single words back in the Middle Ages, whereas alright has only been around for a little more than a century and was called out by language critics as a misspelling. Consequently, one who uses alright, especially in formal writing, runs the risk that readers may view it as an error or as the willful breaking of convention."

See also the entries for alright

message 13: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6389 comments Mod
there's no such thing as "alright" except in publications that print incorrect English. (NE)

Hullooooo!!!! The variant arose in ENGLAND....late 19th century...if it is born in England, it is ENGLISH!!!! Obviously, in the land that won the War of Independence, English is not spoken....American is!

message 14: by Amy (new)

Amy | 21 comments In all my Linguistics classes professors point out language change. Each generation changes the language and makes it their own, partly to distinguish themselves from the former generation which we know they believe is uncool. If people never used "incorrect" English then we would still be speaking some sort of proto-Indo-European. That doesn't mean we should abandon all rules but if a word or spelling becomes wide-spread long enough it is considered a part of the lexicon. I'll look it up in the grand daddy, the OED, and let you know what it has to say.

message 15: by Amy (new)

Amy | 21 comments Okay, the Oxford English Dictionary has it! As an adverb it was found as early as 1175 (hello American Heritage Dictionary!), meaning just or exactly. That doesn't mean we find it acceptable since many old usages of words have become what people refer to as "incorrect," but it's still there. Interesting. As a side note, even though I believe in language change I still wouldn't use it in formal writing but I think that probably within one generation it will be acceptable. And I think the American Hertiage Dictionary is whack and wishes it is the OED!

message 16: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6389 comments Mod
Alright has been all right for years over here and is used formally...I guess you rebellious colonials are outta step!!!!

message 17: by Tyler (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 268 comments I use "all right" as a precaution, but I'd much rather just go on over to "alright."

Lee mentioned James Joyce. I read Portrait for the first time recently, and I'm ready to take on Ulysses. To me, it's dangerous to justify a rule of English on the grounds that James Joyce employed it. Just my initial impression of him ...

message 18: by Ken (last edited Jun 11, 2008 04:33PM) (new)

Ken | 18538 comments Mod
Yes. James Joyce took so many liberties that he put the term "poetic license" to shame. Creative? Sometimes to a fault. But I still love his phrase "the scrotum-tightening sea."

I enjoyed his short story collection, Dubliners, and Portrait less so, but have never been able to put more than a 50-page dent in Ulysses. (It's the Sirens, I swear!)

message 19: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 16263 comments Mod
Dubliners and Portrait both defeated me, but when I was young and didn't know Joyce was supposed to be difficult, I sailed right on through Ulysses.

message 20: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18538 comments Mod
Thanks, Ginnie. I knew I wasn't being an obstructionist. It must be similar to the postage stamp rule where you have to be dead so many years before your mug is honored. With words, you have to be in usage for so many centuries before you pass muster.

message 21: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6389 comments Mod
I guess we Kiwis, Aussies and ....oh yes....English (!) are alwrong then!!!!!!!

message 22: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6389 comments Mod
You always have Donna! We posted at the same time I think, because yours wasn't there when I started, but was when I finished! And you are dead right about the fluidity of the always adopts and adapts...that is why it is so vigourous and widespread.

message 23: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18538 comments Mod
This is what the English get for surrendering at Yorktown -- their language savaged by a bunch of colonial Yahoos...

message 24: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6389 comments Mod
I'm just very grateful we didn't all end up speaking Japanese down this end of the world after WW2!!!!! You COULD say our language was SAVED by a bunch of colonial Yahoos!!!

message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

Do you reckon global communication via the internet and movies and such like will help the various dialects of English stay closer together--that the dialects will influence each other enough that language changes (at least in major English-speaking areas) will remain mutually intelligible? Or do you think it won't make much difference to our language's gradual divergence? (This calls for a great deal of speculation, but I'm curious about what you all think.)

message 26: by Debbie, sardonic princess of cheerfulness (new)

Debbie (sardonicprincessofcheerfulness) | 6389 comments Mod
Is my dialect that different to yours? I don't think so and it IS because of the pervasive influence of communication technologies (ie American music and television!). In a world without those things we would definitely not be chatting like this, and even face to face
I think we would have difficulties as accents would be more unfamiliar and colloquialisms and slang would be a huge barrier!

message 27: by Ken (new)

Ken | 18538 comments Mod
... and le baseball.

message 28: by M.D. (new)

M.D. (mdbenoit) ...and le parking.

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