Everything is Not All Right
by Cherie Tucker
I was reading a novel last night that was quite enjoyable. It was published in England, which may or may not be significant, and the author spelled “all right” as “alright.” It appeared on every page, it seemed, breaking into my enjoyment of what was otherwise a good read. Every time it intruded, the editor in me rose up.
Some people have argued with me that the language is changing, so I have to get used to it. I can’t buy that. There are rules that bear retaining. When so many have been taught by instructors like Miss Raine, who would return your paper ungraded until you fixed that grievous error, or the thousands who were taught by the nuns, this “correct” spelling that requires two words was standard. If you insist that it’s too old-fashioned and that nobody cares about that anymore, look again.
Some things that people say are no longer relevant have a life span that those people can’t erase with their insistence. Take the no white shoes after Labor Day “rule.” I have taken informal surveys in the classes I have taught to see whether people have even heard of it. Overwhelmingly they have and say they still follow it. So be sure not to wear your white shoes to a job interview on September 15.
And because these “rules” are still around, you would be better off not dismissing them. You never know how the people will respond to your breaking such a long-standing rule, and you and your writing could be judged negatively. And that would be sadly all wrong.
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. GrammarWorks@msn.com.