When is alright all right?

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As discussed in detail in the post, “Alright is all right,” the two versions have been used interchangeably, though some are reluctant to acknowledge the one word version as acceptable. Here’s a visual breakdown:

all right: considered preferable in formal writing

alright: considered perfectly fine for informal or colloquial writing, especially dialogue

Merriam-webster.com calls alright an “efficient little version” and compares it to other common words, such as already and altogether.

These words may sound identical, but they do not have the same meanings.

For instance, all ready as two words means “prepared,” while the one word already means “previously.” Compare the sentences:

The cookies are all ready to be eaten.

I can’t believe you ate the cookies already.

And, the two-word phrase all together means “collectively,” but the one-word altogether means “in sum” or “entirely”:

We saw the applicants all together in a group interview; altogether there were four of them.

Though all right and alright have been used interchangeably, the American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style (2005) argues that similarly there can be a difference in meaning with the pair all right and alright:

The answers were all right” means that all the answers were “correct,” while

The answers were alright” means that the answers were “adequate or satisfactory” (25).

While the one word version has a history of being used by writers of all kinds and is increasingly accepted in most venues, writers need to be sure first of the meaning they intend (“adequate or satisfactory”) and then of the setting or occasion for its use. For instance, the American Heritage asserts that alright has never been accepted as the standard, and many instructors or editors will continue to be marked as “incorrect.”

As with all language choices, writers need to be aware of their own preferences and goals in word choice and audience: is it important to be independent or is it important to conform to an editors or in-house style guide?

For more information, see the post “Alright is all right.”

(Material derived and adapted from merriam-webster.com; quickanddirtytips.com; O’Conner’s Woe is I;  American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style.)

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