Alright or All Right?

by | Tricky Words |

During one of my evening writing sessions, one of my characters said, “Alright!” A few lines later, I looked back and wondered whether I should have written, “All right!” My spellchecker had not underlined the word, but it didn’t feel altogether proper.

The more I thought about it, it seemed to me that the word alright had a different meaning from the phrase all right. For example:

“How is it?”

“It’s alright.”

Compared to this:

“Did you check my answers?”

“Yes. They were all right.”

Since the flow of my writing had already been interrupted, I decided to do some research. Here is what I found:

  • A number of websites claimed alright wasn’t a real word. They said to always use all right.
  • However, Merriam Webster listed it and said its use dated back to 1810. They noted a debate over the use of alright and stated that it occasionally appeared in formal writing.
  • Dictionary.com said alright was a one-word variant of all right often used in dialogue and informal writing but not in formal compositions.
  • However, according to the The Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Style Guide, using alright was all wrong.

So there you have it.

Meanwhile, my music player randomly queued up It’s Alright from Huey Lewis and the News’ Greatest Hits compilation. (Don’t you love serendipity?) As I listened to them snap their fingers and sing a cappella, I recalled they had another song also on the same album named But It’s Alright. Someday I think it may be all right to use alright.

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