In Case You Didn't Know
by Cherie Tucker
There are a few bad habits that have crept into people’s writing
quite stealthily, not unlike the proverbial camel in the tent. I’m
speaking of misspellings of the most common words. The most
frequent sins happen with all right and a lot. Please
notice that both of the italicized examples contain two
words. That’s because they both are made up of two words. There is
no acceptable one-word spelling for either of them.
Some folks argue that alright is all right now, however.
They say that times have changed and that language evolves and for
heaven’s sake, don’t be so rigid. There are also those who say we
can now wear white shoes after Labor Day. Well, when people have
been trained forever that both of these things are unacceptable in
civilized society, one cannot just spell all right as alright
any more than one can safely go out in public wearing white shoes on
September 7. The people judging you might not have read the memo.
All writers must realize that their language should be neutral in
order to keep the reader spellbound by the brilliance of the prose.
The reader’s attention should never be diverted by errors—it breaks
the mood, angers the reader, and calls into question the writer’s
As the American Heritage Dictionary says, “. . . despite its
use by a number of reputable authors, the spelling alright
has never been accepted as a standard variant.” And as for alot,
would you write afew? Think about it while you’re putting
away your white shoes.
Cherie Tucker, owner of GrammarWorks, has taught writing basics to
professionals since 1987, presenting at the PNWA conference.
She currently teaches Practical Grammar for Editors at the
University of Washington’s Editing Certification program and edits