Is "Alright" Allright?? 

Question:  Just how correct is it to spell "all right", "a-l-r-i-g-h-t"? 

Once again this slippery snake we call English refuses to 
hold still long enough to give us an exact answer.  Check it out: 

Back to "Guru"  

E-mail the Guru 

Answer:  As you know, English is an evolving language.  For centuries it has been adopting many different languages and dialects into usage.  As a result it is difficult to find many standard rules for spelling. 

So now we come to today's excellent question:  How do you spell "all right"? 

First, you might breath a sigh of relief, because about seven-hundred years ago you might have seen spellings such as "alrihtes" and "alriht" (Oxford English Dictionary).  You might not want to show THAT to your students!  ("Hey!  It's in the dictionary!" they might claim!) 

The question is more a matter of what is the most standard, accepted form of the spelling: 

Older textbooks make no bones about it: 

         Two textbooks (McDougal; Littell (co. 1985) and Prentice 
         Hall (co. 1987) ) explicitly state 'Alright' is not standard 
         English, and therefore is to be avoided in formal writing. 

Two newer textbooks, however, don't bother listing "All right" and "alright" in their index pages -- indicating they don't seem so worried any more about the difference. 

Perhaps one dictionary sums up what is happening in the clearest manner: 

Alright is "in reputable use, although All Right is more common" (Webster's Third New International Dictionary). 

Basically, as more and more people use the alternate spelling more and more often, the more and more it becomes a "standard", accepted spelling.  If the movement keeps growing "alright" and "all right" may become like "judgement" and "judgment" -- where both are listed as acceptable. 

So, shall you continue to fight the good fight, or will you give in to the flood of alternate spelling.  I guess the choice is yours.  Whatever you decide, your students should note that my spell checker still rejects "alright" and so will many good English teachers such as yourself! 

Thanks for the question! 

Yer' Alrite! 

The Guru 

Created 5 - 5 - 98