Is “alright” all right?

By Erin

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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?”

  • 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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