Is it All Right to Write Alright?

by Dax MacGregor
Is it all right for you to write alright? Here's what you need to know to get it right.

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 proper.

As I debated the issue, it seemed that the word alright had a different meaning from the phrase all right. For example:

“Are you okay?”

“I’m alright.”

Compared to this:

“Did you check my answers?”

“Yes. They were all right.”

What Experts Say

Since my writing flow 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 dates 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 Associated Press Stylebook, using alright was all wrong.

Summary

So there you have it. It is NOT all right to use alright in novels or other formal compositions.

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 on the same album: But It’s Alright. Someday, I think it will be all right to use alright. But not today.


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