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 ability.
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 as well.

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