Monday, February 15, 2010

Literary Lapses 101: Lesson 6--Al or All?

I notice that a lot of people have a hard time deciding whether or not to mash a couple of words together. Now sometimes it may be a typing problem; I personally have trouble hitting the space key hard enough, so I have to constantly re-read and correct.  Today we look at the Als, proper and im--alot, already, altogether, and alright.

The big one comes first. Alot is NOT A WORD. There is a word allot, but every time I see this four letter word, it really should be TWO words--a lot. A lot of people misuse it constantly. I see it a lot in lots of blogs AND published books. In fact, this blog was prompted by a book I just read, one that was poorly edited. A lot of is a phrase equal to lots of. Interchangeable, but I don't know if that will help anyone remember.

Not interchangeable. Already means previously, at an earlier or time, or so soon. She's already asleep. I already finished my homework. Do you have to go already?

All ready means something "is prepared and completely set."  The plans for the house are all ready. The papers are all ready for your signature. 


Once upon a time I wasn't sure that both words existed, but they do. All together means 'all in the same place' or 'all at the same time.'  We were gathered all together in a tiny room. The crowd was working all together to find the earthquake victims.

This time the mashed word is more commonly used, and it is not equivalent to all together. Altogether can mean: with everything included; completely or  utterly; on the whole. And naked.  Altogether, that will be ten dollars. This adventure is altogether ridiculous. Altogether, it was a horrible tragedy. He got so drunk that he walked outside in the altogether. 

Alright is considered as a non-standard version of all right, but it is used so much that it is more or less accepted, at least for informal purposes. It is used as a synonym of okay or correct. That's alright with me.  Alright, I'll go.  

It's always safe to use all right. But if you insist on using alright, differentiates thusly:
Things that are honest and honorable are "all right," and that's "alright" (satisfactory or correct) with me!
All right is in proper working order or just average. Your engine is running all right now. The quarterback is all right, but not great. 

The sources I looked at posit that the use of alright grew from use of already and altogether, both of which are now acceptable for standard usage. This is one that I have often wondered about, but, as I stated, all right is always safe. Save alright for conversational and colloquial stuff.

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