All right and alright

I just realized I’m not really clear on when you use one or the other. I usually go by instinct. What are the rules?

“Alright” is never all right, according to sticklers.

In traditional formal written English, you always use the former (all right) and never the latter (alright). In contemporary usage, words such as already and altogether have influenced the spelling, and ‘alright’ is considered an acceptable variant. So there is no distinction in usage, and so long as you’re consistent, you may choose either.

But for the love of Og, use the two-word spelling. The two syllables should be stressed equally.

Use “alright” when you want to be thought illiterate; otherwise, use “all right.” :stuck_out_tongue:

Seriously, unlike a few of the other al- and all- forms, there is no instance in “correct” English where “alright” is the, or even an, appropriate spelling. Obviously, it’s gained some vogue in the free-and-easy Internet world, where accurate spelling seems to be optional. To those who wish to defend it, I’ll simply say, “I kno there are alot a ya, and we’ll talk about it l8r.” :stuck_out_tongue:

I just checked and my spell check doesn’t pick up an error with alright. I wonder why?

To that same grammatical effect, I’d like to point out that “I wonder why.” is a statement, not a question. I suppose you could say " I wonder “why?” "

Apparently, he’s not quite sure whether or not he wonders why.

:rolleyes: :rolleyes:

She doesn’t care.

What’s interesting is your assumption that there are rules. They could just exist in free variation.

[Though, I think in practice, the way it comes down is that people generally have one particular way of spelling it that they go with in most contexts. I’m an “alright” man, when it comes to the item under discussion. However, it must be noted that I distinguish that item from the transparently compositional phrase “all right”, which I write as two words (as, I think, almost everybody does). E.g., I would say “I’m feeling alright” but in response to “How many test questions did you get correct?” I would write “Oh, I got them all right”.

But I am NOT putting forth a rule here. Just telling you my own personal way of doing things, gleamed from examination of my writings. I think almost everyone would write “Oh, I got them all right”, but that you could find people who’d write “I’m feeling all right” and other people who’d write “I’m feeling alright”. And of the former group, you might find some who consider the “all right” in “I’m feeling all right” to be entirely the same as that in “Oh, I got them all right”, and others who consider them to have distinct senses (though related ones), despite having identical written forms.]

But what about ‘aight’? :slight_smile:

Alright is simply not a word. I mean, it’s a word in the same sense that Homer’s “D’oh!” is a word. But it should never be spelled out in that manner in anything other than an e-mail to your sister. That is, as long as your sister does not write for a living. Which I do. So if you’re my sister, don’t use it.


Alright is simply not a word.

word -
NOUN: 1. A sound or a combination of sounds, or its representation in writing or printing, that symbolizes and communicates a meaning and may consist of a single morpheme or of a combination of morphemes.

If meaning was communicated, it’s a word. You presciptivists simply don’t know how to have any fun!

We’re back to prescriptivism vs. descriptivism again. So let me trot out my point, for seemingly the hundredth time:

All linguistics is descriptive. “Prescriptive” linguistics is that aspect of grammar, spelling, word use, etc., that identifies what elements do or do not conform to what is regarded as an “educated” standard for that language.

“Me think post of Indistinguishable am stupid” is a valid sentence – it conveys information about my opinion regarding his post that most readers of English can piece out. But it’s ungrammatical in a number of ways. It’s not good English by any standard.

“Alright” is a substandard spelling of the phrase “all right” that is understood in colloquial written English but considered improper in any formal usage. It’s not “bad” English in some moral sense – it’s purely an incorrect usage for a particular set of usages involving academia, the business world, most journalism, etc.

A curious thing is that you can argue that “alright” is actually more precise, which has been touched on already, but not emphasized. Take the Who song “The Kids Are Alright”. That phrase, rendered as “The Kids Are All Right” is open to interpretation as “All of the kids are correct”, or “The kids are entirely correct” rather than the intended meaning.

Very well said, and I wish that I had said it.

It is utterly pointless to argue “correct” usage without first agreeing on an Authority. Ultimately even a prescriptive authority is dependent on an examination of usage. One can argue that since common usage eventually drives “educated” usage, and (the perception of what is) educated usage eventually drives prescriptive Authority, the most incompetent polloi are actually simply ahead of their time. Their only barrier to being “correct,” even when judged against a prescriptive arbitrary Authority, is to drive their currently incorrect usage so broadly that the educated begin using it, and the prescriptive Authority begins prescribing it.

Most pedantry over “correct” usage is simply shorthand to separate out the educated from the uneducated. There is a broader, more worthy goal of slowing down the natural evolution of language so that we can all say what we mean and mean what we say. However most nits are picked for the purpose of establishing an educational superiority between the nit picker and the nit owner. Defining “correct” usage is best seen as a hobby which is really a contest of researching educated usage.

There is no final Arbiter. What we desperately need is a… Chief Pedant. :wink:
And I am usually napping these days.

And as I’ve already explained to you, this is simply not a factually accurate description of the difference.

I’ll never understand why people feel such a strong need to invent rationales to critique other people’s language usage (and as a glance through this thread demonstrates, the people who do so rarely have much actual understanding of grammar anyway.) Regardless, your claim that prescriptivist standards reflect the educated standard variety of English is laughable when one actually examines those standards and the writings of educated people.

As this thread has made pretty clear, the chief function of prescriptive grammar rules is to give those who know them an opportunity to smugly “correct” others; the rules, furthermore, are generally rather simple, which is a nice accommodation for those who want that warm feeling of self-superiority but don’t actually want to learn anything about grammar.

Lucks too me that innythang iz okay if al you mene to get acrost is sum meening and that fokes are sposed to let yur edicasion be whatevr you chuse to uze of it. Ennyboddy wanting to mak rulz are jus waisting there time sense nobody can say what rulz kount. I fine it hard to jus dump what i wuz toght an start uzing what cumes to mine.

o, buy the weigh, “alright” sux.

Excalibre very much is not saying “Anything goes!”. He’s just saying that actual usage in a particular community is the ultimate arbiter of “correctness” for that community. And I imagine that actual usage, both among the hoity-toity and the hoi polloi, condones both “all right” and “alright”. But the lovely thing about the descriptivist point of view is that I don’t have to imagine, and I don’t have to try to figure out which particular pretentious prescriptivist pedant out of the debating din to align with. Rather, as a descriptivist, as one who sees linguistics as a science, the question is objective and empirical: we can study large bodies of written text and see just what the common usage for a particular community really is.

(Oh, and, don’t start with me on “the hoi polloi”… :slight_smile: )

Based purely on observation, in spite of protestations to the contrary, I would say that both you and Excalibre adhere to fairly exacting standards in your presentations here. Are you meaning to suggest you have done your selecting of rules to follow from some arbitrary source? If so, does the fact that your source appears to coincide with mine mean that we have lucked upon the same or a similar standard?

How many of the rules you were taught in school have you rejected as being too pedantic? Can you give a few examples?

I had an English teacher for whom “alright” was a personal bug. She had a sign “Alright is alwrong.”

It’s not a matter of rejecting specific rules I was taught in school as being too pedantic. It’s just that very little of the way I write is driven by the thought “This is what Mrs. Maple said in school to be the rule”, just as absolutely nothing of the way I speak is driven by such thoughts. Writing is much, much more formalized and less natural than speech, certainly, but still… my style of writing is, at this point, not based on consciously following rules handed down to me, but, rather, on the involuntary osmosis of the styles of writing I am generally exposed to.

The fact that our writing styles are similar is not because I’m consciously adhering to a set of rules carved in stone, the majority of which you too keep in mind. Our writing styles are similar because we happen to probably be exposed to and involved in interactions with the same general community of writers, and thus have picked up the same general way of doing things. It’s no more a remarkable coincidence that we have similar writing styles than the fact that most Frenchmen tend to speak similarly.