Weekly Grammar Tip: alright/all right

What’s the difference between ‘alright’ and ‘all right’?

The key difference is that ‘alright’ is not a real word.

What?!

Alright, all right, let me explain …

The word ‘alright’ has evolved from repeated misspelling of ‘all right’ and the merging of the two words into one. While ‘already’ and ‘all ready’ have two distinct meanings, ‘alright’ and ‘all right’ mean the same thing (essentially). The word ‘alright’ is technically not accepted in the English language – however it is rapidly becoming more widely used and this use is received without question, thanks to a few rock stars and other contemporary artists. It’s one of those ‘language evolution’ things (please note, this evolution will never make ‘than’ and ‘then’ interchangeable, so don’t even go there).

Want to know more? This post from Grammar Girl offers a more in-depth examination of the ‘alright’ and ‘all right’ debate according to different style guides and debate. My favourite online dictionary suggests that ‘alright’ is more informal and this is also the case in another article. Whether you choose to use ‘alright’ or not is up to you – let’s make sure you’re using it correctly (well, as correctly as you can use a word that isn’t supposed to be used).

Now, let’s assume that ‘alright’ is, indeed, a real word (and according to WordPress spellcheck, it is). There is a grey area as to whether or not ‘alright’ means the same as ‘all right’, or if it has adopted its own meaning. Personally, I think of the two as having slightly different meanings and I offer these here:

ALRIGHT refers to satisfaction or adequacy, or being ‘OK’.

The movie was alright.

This coffee is alright but it would be better with more sugar.

ALL RIGHT refers to being correct or … well, right.

Did you get the test answers all right?

I like to think that my grammar is all right but I always get someone to edit my essays before submitting them.

I did ALRIGHT on the test because I got the answers ALL RIGHT.


What do you think? Do you use ‘alright’ regularly? How do you differentiate between ‘alright’ and ‘all right’?

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11 comments on “Weekly Grammar Tip: alright/all right

  1. I love posts such as these. They have me scrambling for the flash disks that contain my work, and before I realise, another edit is in progress.
    Time consuming and often frustrating, but ultimately worthwhile.

  2. Oh dear. When I learned grammar at school, in the dark ages of the 1950s and 60s, we were taught that there was no such word as ‘alright’, and that the correct version was ALWAYS ‘all right’.
    I didn’t have children, but from what I have gleaned from those that do, there is little or no teaching of grammar in schools these days, a deplorable development in my view; how are people to communicate, let alone express themselves, if there are no guidelines?
    Every day in the media I come across basic errors, even on (tch!) the BBC; things like ‘different than’…
    It’s just laziness. People say, oh, language has to change and develop, and that may be the case; but it’s really that people can’t be bothered to find out the correct way of saying something.
    With my ear tuned to correct grammar, these things grate- like nails on a blackboard (anyone remember those?)…whereas a beautifully constructed paragraph is music to the ears!

  3. Thanks for the clarification. I had been using “all right” to mean “okay” in my fiction – in the dialogue – but wondering every time I did it. Since my setting is not contemporary, I think I’m doing the right thing. However, it it was a contemporary setting, I think I’d go with “alright.” How does that sound for wishy-washy?

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