Some “All” Words and Expressions

By Maeve Maddox

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You’ll hear some of these in conversation and see them on blog sites, but when it comes to formal writing, beware of these “all” words and expressions.

all ofI ate all of the cookies. The “of” is unnecessary. Better: I ate all the cookies.

alright – As my English teachers pounded into my brain, there’s no such word as “alright.” There is the phrase all right. Is it all right if I search your house?

already – This word is an adverb. Too late! The cat has already eaten the canary.

all ready – This is a phrase. When you are all ready, I’ll get the car. We were all ready to go to the movies.

altogether – This word is an adverb meaning “entirely.” Your idea is altogether wrong-headed.

all together – This is a phrase. All together, now, sing! The family was all together for Thanksgiving.

alot – This is the bane of English teachers and, I suppose, editors. The expression is a lot, two words. I like you a lot. My children read a lot. There is a word allot, a verb meaning “to divide into lots.” When I plan my day, I allot four hours to meals and a minimum of six hours to writing.

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12 Responses to “Some “All” Words and Expressions”

  • Sarah

    I remember a lot is two words because you never have “alittle”.

  • Brad K.

    Altogether can also be a mode of dress. “She darted from the bathroom in the altogether.” But that might not be in current usage.

  • Nathan

    I applaud your concision. I think ‘all ready’ is often used as a Yiddish interjection.

  • Alexey Filippov

    What about “all of them”?

  • Lana


    Actually, “of” is used with pronouns (all of us, all of them, etc)

  • G

    All right? It was the only question on the DWT spelling test I missed, having chosen “all right” over the alternatives. You may want to revise the test if you want to suggest that using two words is the correct spelling.

  • Miguel Wickert

    Yes! Believe it or not, but simple writing tips about grammar are quite useful to many bloggers out there. Yeah, “alittle” is another one that students will often trip up on. Thanks for sharing. Cheers,


  • Alex

    What about “All of My Life”?

  • Lana


    With “all” and “half” we can omit “of”, so it is quite possible to say “all my life” or “all of my life”, “all of my friends” or “all my friends”.

  • Alex

    Thanks for your explanation.
    So, it’s not that it’s incorrect to put “of” in that sentence, but simply because it’s unnecessary, am I correct? I remember a song from Phil Collins with that title (“All of My Life”).

  • Lana

    Yes, “All of my life, I’ve been searching
    For the words to say how I feel”…

    There is also a song “All My Life” by Foo Fighters: “All my life I’ve been searching for something” – which illustrates the example.

  • Brad K.

    I think of “all my life” as a span of time.
    “All of my life” would be more about content – experiences, events, feelings, family and friend bonds, and all of the assorted periods in my life.

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