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Is it all right to write ‘alright’?

October 1, 2013

 When I was at school, a punishment occasionally doled out by teachers was to do a ‘side’, which was a piece of paper with lists of commonly mis-spelt words on either side and you had to copy each word out five times. One of these, I recall, was all right – at that time, the alternative spelling of alright was beginning to emerge and was still regarded as a mistake. Nowadays it’s no longer a mistake: it’s often to be found in printed texts and in fact is probably the more accepted form. It’s interesting to watch a spelling change like this in the course of one’s own lifetime. It must be because there exists a group of words with the prefix al- (already, although, also, almost) and they exert a gravitational pull which has irresistibly drawn in and claimed all right. Actually I bet the words in that group were also once spelt as two words – all ready, etc.

I’ve ceased to regard alright as wrong now. But I don’t use it myself. The effect of doing all those sides still weighs heavily with me.

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  1. Are not there two constructions? ‘Alright’ meaning ‘I’m okay with that”, and ‘all right!’ meaning either “ya dun good!” or… “if you insist” depending on tone and context.

    • I wasn’t aware of this distinction. But maybe you’re right and I just haven’t noticed these separate usages.

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