Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The war that was, you know, alright

In writing the new book, an issue came up - my wonderful editing friend quite strongly reminded me that "alright" is not a word.

Now, being brought up in a proper and decent household, I was of course taught from an early age that the correct term is "all right". And of course reading and writing extensively has confirmed this.

However, on this occasion, I felt a clash of ideas coming, like universal idas so big they underpin, well, the universe and stuff.

Take a look at this poll (which may or may not be the first link I found on Google):
http://www.usingenglish.com/poll/42.html

The replies are of a huge variety. Let's look at some!

Joan - 24th November 2003 23:12
I would recommend using 'all right' in writing.


Hmm, factual but rather boring.

Jason - 15th March 2007 04:21
Alright is a supposed compound word of all right. All right means all correct. The way we use alright is, its ok. It alright. However, such a word does not exist.


Okay this guy has a bit more conviction. Also he explains where it comes from - the shorthand word "alright" actually means that all is right or correct.

ACE - 13th August 2007 02:05
There's no way that I would ever use "alright" in writing. It's completely unprofessional and makes you look stupid.


Ah here we go! "ACE" is clearly prepared to put his/her balls on the line. To be fair, I'd mock someone who used "alright" simply because they were too stupid to know the whole situation.

Meanwhile "Travis" here has just lost the plot - the concept is so insane he doesn't understand the question:

Travis - 16th December 2007 15:00
What do you mean "is alright an acceptable word"? This is so wrong. It should not be a word because you can't make two words one without an apostrophe, with the exceptions being all ready and already; but even these two words have different meanings. You can't have two words that mean the same thing, with different spellings!


Finally, someone who thinks they are educated enough on the subject to call themselves "English Teacher" made this valid point just a month ago:

English teacher - 23rd March 2009 18:18
it's just like writing alwrong...we wouldn't write that, so why would anyone think alright is a word?


So ... what do you think?

I was going to post my answer and final decision in the same post here, but I'd love to hear what you guys all think. Comments please!

1 comment:

  1. This reminds me of an English teacher who used to drum into our heads that there is no such word as "onto". I've always resisted using it to this day, even though you see it used frequently.

    I used to get really irritated by americanisms like the use of a "z" instead of an "s", until I found out that most americanisms were actually archaic English spellings that they had preserved when the settlers to took them with them and, so, were actually more pure English than our spellings.

    I'm a lot more relaxed about language these days. After all, its an evolving and developing thing and never stands still. We continually need new words for things. We didn't have words for "television" and "telephone" before needed them. Should they have gone nameless, just because they weren't in the dictionary?

    It is usage that defines our language, not the dictionary. The dictionary is always playing catch-up and new words are being added all the time. So, if we find a use for the word "alright", we will use it. The question is, how long will it take for the dictionary to catch up?

    Gary

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