*Is It All Right to Use Alright?

Style guides and many dictionaries have long considered “alright” an error: the correct spelling should be “all right,” they say.

Of course, this was a disputed matter to begin with. And things change. So I looked up the world “alright” in Merriam-Webster online. Turns out that that dictionary is okay with it. But while looking it up, I stumbled across something I wasn’t expecting. Under the entry, a user commented “My daughter had her first 6th grade spelling test. She spelled "alright" and got it wrong. The teacher said it was 'all right.' So now do I bring this up to the teacher?”

Then, half-buried under a really annoying candy bar ad that expanded seemingly every time I exhaled, I saw the replies to her comment:

“Wow!!! That is as bad as the librarian saying ‘welcome to the libary”

“‘Are you smarter than a sixth grader?” Teacher edition.’

“ … That is crazy …”

I feel bad for the teacher. No doubt, she or he got the information from one of the countless sources that disagree with Merriam-Webster’s but are every bit as authoritative. Webster’s New World College Dictionary, which is the official referee for most news media, lists “alright” only as a disputed spelling of “all right.” American Heritage Dictionary calls it nonstandard. The Associated Press Style Guide has long said that “alright” is never an acceptable form. Chicago style also prohibits “alright.”

Sure, you can disagree with the teacher. In fact, I myself no longer believe you can call “alright” an error. But the pot shots seem unfair to me. Really, how many sources could we expect him or her to check? If the first nine sources she checks all prohibit “alright,” can we really be that hard on her for not checking a tenth?

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2 Responses to “*Is It All Right to Use Alright?”

  1. Weeeee, what a quick and easy soltuoin.

  2. I was in junior high English when our teacher announced that "alright" was no longer an acceptable spelling and that in all future writing, only "all right" would be acceptable. She continued to tell us that it was some group of intellectuals who had made this decision and that we were going to be held to their word. Even then I wondered who it was in our country who could dictate which correctly spelled words could no longer be considered correct. That was in 1968/9.