Is “alright” all right?

By Erin

In 1965, The Who told us “The Kids are Alright,” spawning generations of the use of alright in music.

In 2004, The Killers said “Everything Will be Alright,” Jennifer Lopez was “Gonna Be Alright” in 2002, and Janet Jackson said it was “alright with me” in 1989. The examples go on and on, leaving us to wonder if, in fact, “alright” is all right.

Scholars and grammarians are constantly debating the question of alright vs. all right. In common usage, all right is a synonym for okay or satisfactory, as in “Are you all right?” However, it can also mean “all correct”, as in, “My answers on the test were all right.”

In some circles, alright has become an accepted usage interchangeable with most uses of all right, particularly in dialogue:

Rob, do you want to come to the party with me?

Alright.

Generally, most editors and teachers don’t think “alright” is all right. If you’re in doubt, it’s best to stick with the more widely accepted two-word “all right,” especially in formal academic or professional writing.

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52 Responses to “Is “alright” all right?”

  • Daniel

    It is interesting to see how the social factor end up influencing the usage of the language. Nice post.

  • Erin

    Thanks, Daniel. It was interesting to write.

  • Deron

    Interesting. I’ve always used ‘alright’ and never thought otherwise about it. Thanks for the tip.

  • LearningNerd

    I’ve always avoided using alright in school papers and formal stuff like that, but I really think it should be acceptable everywhere else.

    I mean, you might have a sentence like this: The students were alright. That means they were OK, as in nothing bad happened to them. But if you said that the students were all right, that could mean they all got the correct answer on the test.

    Most importantly, though, the word alright is used so often! I think it’s time we just accept it as standard.

  • J2R

    and what about A’ight?
    🙂

  • Thorn

    This confused me for the longest time, until I did a bit of research a few months ago. I think I’m just going to stick with all right for now, personally.

  • Quynh

    how interesting! I have been studying English as a second language, so never searched nor studied about “alright” and “all right”. Thank you! “Alright” post! ^_^ I’m considering about making this page my feed on Y!Blog >

  • youssouf

    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/are-we-all-together-on-this/

  • Kipande Msangi

    most people,pipul and teachers don’t think “alright” is all right.But my addion is that all this are sound the some.And having the some meaning.

  • Kipande Msangi

    obligation
    we do not have to be under obligation to anyone. it is ok to say NO just because someone is your friend. you do not always have to say yes ..if you do not agree.. it is your privilege to say NO. a friend in need is a friend indeed . that is not always true . you can be taken advantage off………. love and peace.

    repeat
    after each sentence repeat JUST LIKE ME i went down the hallway JUST LIKE ME went in the bathroom.. JUST LIKE ME . looked in the mirror . JUST LIKE ME saw a monkey .. JUST LIKE ME ………………….hehehehe

    intilligent
    we may have education ..and knowledge. from a book. but sometimes intillengence and common sence . comes fr experence . some may have one ..and not the other ……….

    looking back
    the past is history. but sometimes we have to look back . to rem our good times and joy . to be able to deal with our pain off the present

    life
    do not be afraid your life will end . be afraid that it will not begin. tears may be the thing we need . to rediscover the rainbow that is within us. love and peace

    love or fantasy etc
    is it love or fanasty. you may fanatize ..dream ..lush etc. love and falling in love is a different thing. you may love your family ..friends and foe . but falling in love. can knock you clean off your feet……….. love and peace

    A Friend
    yes a friend in need is a friend indeed but like you said some people that are surpose to be friends can really turn out to be your worst nightmares its hard to trustsome people in this day & time

    LIFE
    i’m not afraid of dying as much as at times i’m afraid of living in this cruel world I have a saying i go by each day & i live by that saying…. I live each & every day to the fullest & enjoy it like there is no tomorrow because we never know when it might by our last day on earth.

    Broadcasts 16 minutes ago Today Moss Subject: great discovery ! scientists finaly discovered whats wrong with the males brain, on the left side nothing is right, on the right side nothings left lool 🙂 Broadcasts 43 minutes ago Today Moss Subject: period ! LOOL teacher: do u know the importance of a period? kid: yeah sure, once my sis missed onemy mother fainted, dad had a heart attack and our driver ran away loool 🙂

    my words
    they say ..live life to the fullest. my words are ..live each min ..each hour ..each day .. to the best off your ability. look back with no regrets . look ahead to tomorrow . and wherever it may bring. love and peace

    natures love
    theres a blue bird on my window pane. theres a rainbow in my sky . seagulls flying across the sea , a robin setting in my tree. natures love before our eyes . the sweetest sights ..you will ever spy……………….

    a handle on life
    we may think we have a handle on life. untill hardship and difficulty sets in . if we cannot alter the difficulties. we try to alter ourselves to meet them . love and peace

    MY Friends
    half off this world ..we do not know how the other half lives. some off us do not know ..how our neighbours live . nooone knows what goes on behind closed door . but what a pleasure it is to be friendsssssss.

    no 1
    we are number one .first and formost . but sometimes it can be very hard ..to put your self first. when other are reaching out ..and need you . but we are only human . sometimes promised can be broken. mistakes can be made. as we have to step back. and take second places. love and peace……………….

    MY FRIENDSSSSSSSSSSSS
    do not always follow . it may not bee the right directions. do not believe all you hear .. it may not be true. follow your instints . follow your heart ,, love and peace

    friends
    we all live different lives . some rich .some poor . some with tears.. some with smiles. some with more trials .than the other . but if you never lived it ..you never experenced it . love and peace.

    In 1965, The Who told us “The Kids are Alright,” spawning generations of the use of alright in music.
    In 2004, The Killers said “Everything Will be Alright,” Jennifer Lopez was “Gonna Be Alright” in 2002, and Janet Jackson said it was “alright with me” in 1989. The examples go on and on, leaving us to wonder if, in fact, “alright” is all right.
    Scholars and grammarians are constantly debating the question of alright vs. all right. In common usage, all right is a synonym for okay or satisfactory, as in “Are you all right?” However, it can also mean “all correct”, as in, “My answers on the test were all right.”
    In some circles, alright has become an accepted usage interchangeable with most uses of all right, particularly in dialogue:
    Rob, do you want to come to the party with me?
    Alright.
    Generally, most editors and teachers don’t think “alright” is all right. If you’re in doubt, it’s best to stick with the more widely accepted two-word “all right,” especially in formal academic or professional writing.

  • Tom

    English is a dynamic language. Alright may be all right sooner or later.

  • Jeremy Dalton

    Interesting usage note from tfd.com on ‘all right’:

    Usage Note: Despite the appearance of the form alright in works of such well-known writers as Langston Hughes and James Joyce, the single word spelling has never been accepted as standard. This is peculiar, since similar fusions such as already and altogether have never raised any objections. The difference may lie in the fact that already and altogether became single words back in the Middle Ages, whereas alright has only been around for a little more than a century and was called out by language critics as a misspelling. Consequently, one who uses alright, especially in formal writing, runs the risk that readers may view it as an error or as the willful breaking of convention.

  • Ruben

    Thanks for the post.. It was all right.

  • Elvina

    About a hundred years ago — more or less — when I was in high school, my great English teacher ended any confusion I had with alright or all right. She said, You shouldn’t say ‘alright’ any more than you should say ‘alwrong.’

  • Jonathan Ramsey

    Elvina, that sounds like one of those things that over-reaching teachers sometimes say. Perhaps we shouldn’t say ‘forever’ any more than we should say ‘fornever’, ‘awful’ any more than ‘awles’/’awless’.

    The kids ARE all right.

  • Thomas Wayne Hoover

    Some years ago when reading C. S. Lewis’s letters, edited by his brother, I was startled to see that he habitually wrote ‘alright’. But, he did not do so in writings intended for publication, implying that he really knew that the usage was alwrong.

  • Storm

    alright is nonstandard colloquial, so its great in quotes.. and thats it. Usually as a homologue of “acceptable” or “affirmative”.

    “All Right” isn’t a homologue of acceptable or affirmative, so the sentence “Is it all right if we go to the park?” isn’t the same as
    ” is it alright if we go to the park” so both are grammatic poison.

    So All Right cant be used in place of alright, which shouldn’t be used except in quotes. However if a speaker uses alright instead of all right the alright form should be quoted.

  • Kipande Msangi

    It coulled be alright” when things going on.

  • MattT

    “However if a speaker uses alright instead of all right the alright form should be quoted.”

    If a speaker uses alright instead of all right, how would we know?

  • Grammatron

    I think the most reasonable solution for this situation – before the “social factor” gets the better of our dear language and it’s too late to go back – is to recognize “alright” as having a different implication from “all right.”
    Though the two are at times interchangeable, the following differences in meaning should also be noted:
    “If the students are all right,” then their answers are all correct.
    “If the students are alright,” then they’re doing swell and they are just fine.

    “If the speech was alright,” then there is no indication of whether all the information was correct, but rather that the presentation of the speech was not bad.
    In regards to the accuracy of the speech’s content, however, it could either be all right or all wrong.

    Lastly, consider the redundancy:
    “Everything is all right ,” when we really mean to say that “Everything is alright.”

  • eric

    I have always thought that the mistake came from, or was reinforced by, confusing already and all ready.

  • ms.roro

    what is the different between (picture,image & photo)?

  • Travis

    Kipande. You have got to be shitting me. How do you have the nerve to leave a comment about something grammar-related and then have your comment have some of the worst grammar any of us have ever seen? You’re an abomination to the human race. If my kids EVER speak like you, they won’t be allowed in public. It’s a pity your parents didn’t have the same guidelines.

    By the way, alright is NOT a word. It’s as much of a disappointment to the English languags as that dumbass Kipande is to this world.

  • English minor

    Ms. Roro,

    I believe you meant, What is the difference instead of what is the different between picture, image and photo?

    Because this site is to assist one another, or so I was led to believe, I am responding. Also, a picutre and/or photo are actually images reflected by an artist or a camera.

    Hope this help you.

  • MT

    On the alright vs. all right…if ‘alright’ is not accepted in formal documents, such as in my field of medical typing, and ‘all right’ is the preferred/used term…then what makes that any different from already vs. all ready? Already – meaning previous/soon and all ready – meaning entirely ready? Wouldn’t that make alright – meaning okay or in agreement and all right – meaning correct?

    Oh the joy of the English language…

  • learner

    since that many people are using “alright” rather than “all right” maybe someday they accept ” alright” in the formal English grammar.

    on the second thought I thought “all right is alright” but thanks to the one who post it.I finally understand the mystery of that words.

  • Learner

    its just so good to learn new things!!!

  • Casey Goranson

    While the use of “alright” may be frowned upon by some, it has a fine pedigree. Ever heard of the hymn “Love the Lord alway”? That’s the old way of saying “always”. It’s hundreds of years old.
    “Always”has undergone the exact same change as “alright”. Look:

    “He’s going out every evening, and it’s always with that girl of his.”
    Here, “always” means “on every occasion”

    “He’s going out every evening, and it’s all ways with that girl of his.”
    Here, “all ways” means “in every manner” (as well as other hidden meanings!).

    The two meanings have diverged completely. As has been detailed above, “alright” and “all right” are well on their way to a similar semantic bifurcation.
    Would you criticize someone for writing “always” instead of “all ways”? If not, then does it not seem a double standard to criticise “alright”?

  • Camidee

    I think “alright” should become a word. I mean, so many people use it already, right? And nowadays, just because a word is becoming widely used, they’re showing up in the dictionary. So why not “alright”? Just like you said in that sentence, “Rob, do you want to come to the party with me tonight?” “Alright.” It’s becoming a word like okay which can be used as a term of agreement or meaning that the person is fine or satisfactory. I never knew that it wasn’t a word until a higher grade in school, and since so many people use it, just, why not?

  • Nick

    alright

  • Rohan

    Wow. I never really knew that the several times I used ‘alright’ wasn’t grammatically correct. ‘Alright’ did seem like a funny word though, with it’s truncated spelling of ‘All’.
    Modern culture is so behind every major change in social communication.

  • kim

    I use it all the time, alright!?!?!? ALRIGHT?!?!?!

    haha at the squiggly red “YOU HAVE SPELT THAT WORD WRONG” line underneath alright as I type it.

  • Jon

    It’s fascinating that people perceive a difference in meaning between the two forms. They’re identical. You’d have to have a pretty weak grasp of English to read “Is it all right if we go to the park?” and not realize what was being asked. It’s a simple question of context.

    English speakers seem to be trying to eliminate the need for contextual clues. How pathetically lazy!

    For me it’s all right to use the older form. Laziness is uninteresting.

  • River_City

    Contrary to the post above, the best reason for accepting “alright” is that it does have different meaning. When we see someone have an accident and we ask if he/she is “alright”, we aren’t looking for “100% good.” When the person addressed says “yes”, we understand “maybe not 100% but good enough to get by.”

    The meaning of “all right” goes more to completeness or unanimity, which is quite different from sufficiency, adequacy or “good enough.”

  • Christopher

    I agree with River_City. In the commonly accepted usage, when a person is asked how they did on a recent test and they reply “alright”, what they mean is “o.k.”, not that they got the answers “all right”.

    It may not be proper, but it is the basis for the more commonly accepted use of the term.

  • Carol

    Jon on July 11, 2010: Well said.

    Additionally, while I haven’t looked up “alright” in a dictionary – yet- I will not be surprised to see it in there, since the ignorant misuse of a word is often (“t” not pronounced) the common way into the dictionary.

  • Gary

    I wish I could remember the exact poem used by a college Speech teacher I truly admired. She was adamantly against the use of the word “alright” and said it was to never be used in her class or the speech and or the paper would be graded as a failure. My best recall of the poem is as follows.
    “The teacher and the students will always get along,
    When all right is all right,
    but alright is all wrong.”

  • James Jones

    Of course alright is alright. It’s become it’s own word with a unique meaning. “All right” is the same as “everything is correct” whereas “alright” can mean many things including a sense that something was good but not great “it was alright” which would not fit “all right”.

    That’s the great thing about language, it changes and develops overtime, often despite of snobbery. If a word, like alright, is used often enough then it becomes part of that language. To deny it’s validity, because it never used to be a word, is the same as denying the validity off all English words which is pointless.

    Maybe in 1965 you could argue that it’s not a word but I think 46 years of common usage is enough to give it the right to be alright.

  • Alan

    “How did you do on your test?” “Alright” Meaning: not bad, I’m satisfied, on the whole the result is good.

    “How did you do on your test?” “All Right!” Meaning: 100% correct. A listener can distinguish from the previous by the inflections used.

  • Dawn

    To me, “all right” sounds incredibly stilted. When writing dialogue, which is primarily where I would use the term, “alright” looks much more like it belongs in the flow of a conversation. Reading “all right” instead immediately pulls me out of the fiction, it just looks so awkward.

    I concede that, in formal writing, “all right” ought to be preferred, but I would argue that in formal writing, one would want to avoid “all right” altogether, as it isn’t a very formal term to begin with.

    I look forward to the day when “all right” fades gracefully into the sunset as just one more archaism, and “alright” takes its rightful place in the sun.

  • Matthew

    I never use “alright”. I can’t stand it.

  • Joke

    Alright, ‘all right’ wins.

  • Cindy91

    I came here to clarify my conundrum… have had it for years. Thx so much!

  • Kirk Hale

    I cannot believe this. I am 54 years old and have thought that ‘all right’ was the degeneration of ‘alright’ into just one version.

    All right is self explanatory.

    “Are you all right?”

    The above to a Southerner, such as moi, could very well mean, “Are you (collectively) correct?” as opposed to alright meaning “okay.”

    I’m no grammarian but I am someone who refuses to punctuate while texting and I do know when to use the right two, to and too.

  • John John

    Thou shalt not say alright!

    Language changes.

    Some people need to learn this.

  • Schopenhauer

    Language should not change depending on popularity. As a society we are breaking up words merely to save effort and time.

    If we adjusted to what is commonplace we would have text like “iz de piza redy.”

    You see this all over the internet. Just because “alright” has been spread by the rest of society as a result of ignorance, does not mean the English language should adjust to that laziness.

    The bastardization of grammar and words is not evolution.

    Instead of the world adjusting, we should adjust also.

    By the way, there is no evidence or support for the claim that “alright” and “all right” have different meanings.

    Please stick with facts.

  • Ed

    @ LearningNerd – If you want to say that “the students were alright” as in they were OK…then why not just say “the students were OK”!?

  • Hazel Jasper

    I find this war fascinating. I read them all (Past tense). I feel there is a shade of meaning between the two. I prefer “all right”. It just looks better on the page. Dropping one “L”, alright” leaves me hanging.

  • Bryan

    This thread is still alive? Well then… If common usage conveys meaning then alright a synonym for okay, which obviously is also colloquial so one has to search further for an acceptable replacement. Alright should in fact be replaced by the “acceptably formal” word that is its synonym in the context alright is being used (satisfactory, acceptable, etc). Obviously if you need to convey the meaning of an ambivalent acceptability (or satisfaction) then you must explicitly state that (until such time okay and alright gain their own entry defining this begrudging affirmation). In any case all right can’t be considered the correct replacement for alright in a formal context since the meaning is not preserved.

  • philip e.

    I too was under the impression that *alright* was the accepted form. It conveys the concepts of -wellness (I’m alright) – and agreement (Alright!)- more gracefully? than all right.
    This is one instance of me refusing to play the stodgy pedant.
    iow — I LIKES IT, FRANK!

  • Tim

    This has been one of the strangest threads of commentary I have ever read. You have people berating others for using “alright”, while misspelling and misusing all sorts of other words. You have one guy suggesting that because using “alright” is improper, it should be replaced with “OK”. I laughed out loud at that one. You have a sundry of snobs who simply refuse to use “alright” because it isn’t in the dictionary. And you also have the “English-as-an-obviously-second-language” person who posted drivel about the most random and unrelated garbage on the entire page.

    Many of you made great points, and my favorite of these is “Thou shalt not say alright!” Look how the language has developed since the Middle Ages. I wonder how many elitist snobs became enraged then the “eth” was dropped from “speaketh”.

    “All ready” has become “already”, and “all together” has become “altogether”. “Alright” isn’t a bastardization, it is more of a clarification, because as two separate words, it can have two separate meanings.

    Some of the most recent additions to the Oxford English Dictionary include “bestie”, “cuntish”, “honkey-tonker”, and “wackadoodle”. To allow these words into the English language while boycotting “alright” is downright ignorant. If you want to use these new “words”, then that’s alright. In my opinion, however, these “words” are not all right.

  • Danielle Gauthier

    This question arose during an English grammar test given by a placement agency. I was so used to seeing it written ‘alright’ that I chose to write it that way. Oh! What a mistake. Never again will I write it this way in a grammar test. From now on, I will write it in two words. Better to play it safe. The grammar tests given by placement agencies to French people are full of such grammar errors just to see how bilingual we truly are. Glad I have found this grammar site.

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