Mixing up words like alot vs. a lot and anxious vs. eager

The Writingessentialsbyellen.com blog has a new “look”: posts will be shorter so that readers can get the essential questions answered quickly, but links will be provided to previous and new essays that go deeper into the language usage and controversy points. Reply to the post to let me know how you like the new format. Ellen ~~

alot vs. a lot

The pair alot and a lot is another set of often confused words which has caused similar, if less heated, reactions as all right and alright. (See the full post on both pairs here.)

One source, writingexplained.com, states that alot “is never seen in print” because it isn’t an actual word. (In fact, MS Word spellcheck will correct alot into the two word form, which I discovered when composing this section.) However this resource does admit that, as with alright, the one-word spelling is common in texting and web communications, and New Fowler’s cites its appearance in American English in informal correspondence as early as 1991.

anxious vs. eager

No need to be anxious about the use of anxious vs. eager. Although traditional grammar and usage distinguishes between these words and scorns mixing them up, reputable works such as Patricia O’Conner’s Woe is I (1996) uses eager and anxious interchangeably (when discussing a separate usage point about words that should or should not be followed by an infinitive).

Both are adjectives, but as Richard Norquist on Thought.com writes, anxious means uneasy, nervous, or fearful, especially about something that is about to happen. On the other hand, eager means interested and excited–impatient to have or do something. Consider this example from Norquist:

A student may be anxious about her grades and eager to see classes end.

Yet O’Conner’s use of them as identical should not have been surprising since writers have been using them interchangeably for over 450 years and distinguishing between them is an invention of 20th C twentieth-century purists. Read more in depth about anxious vs. eager here.

(Resources: writingexplained.com; The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage; O’Conner, Woe is I; Nordquist on anxious vs. eager.)

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