Tuesday’s Tip o’ the Day: Words that Really Aren’t Words

Posted by on Jun 29, 2010 in Tip o' The Day | 12 comments

It has happened again. Yes, it took a few months. I finally succumbed to intense strain and frustration I felt as I glanced across my Facebook status notifications. This, my friends, is the result of that agony. Many people out there are using words on a daily basis that are not actually words at all!

Horror! I know. The trouble is, you could be one of them! I myself struggled with understanding the spelling of a few of these “words” in the past. Today I am here to set the record straight – to help you become a better, more knowledgeable and competent writer. If you are one of the dozens of individuals using a form of these “words,” don’t sweat it. Be grateful that you too can be liberated from the grip of this beast. You can be free!

Alright is not all right.

The word alright is often used by people as a type of slang word or in conversation. However, this form of the word incorrect. Alright is technically not  a word in the English language at all. The correct spelling is all right.

The definitions of all right are:

  1. yes; very well; ok. EX: All right, I’m ready for bed.
  2. satisfactory; acceptable. EX: You did all right at the game today.
  3. without fail; certainly. EX: I’ll make an A on that test all right!
  4. safe; sound. EX: Are you sure my kitty is all right?

Today’s young people are trying to change the acceptance of the word alright into our English language by simply misspelling the words all right and using alright in its place for the same definitions.  In the years to come alright may appear in dictionaries and be accepted in college essays, but that time has not yet come. So until then, use the words correctly, all right?

Here’s another word I hear alot.

That’s right, fans. The word alot is not actually a word at all. In fact, if you search dictionary.com for the word alot, they ask you ever-so-sweetly if you meant the word alto!

The definition for the phrase a lot:

  • Very many; a large number; very much. EX: I love you a lot!

Because this word denotes the size of something, it makes sense that it would be two separate words. For example, we use the word lot to describe spaces – parking lot or a lot for a building.  When we use this phrase to describe a huge number, it is easy to see that we would not want the a touching the lot.

I really hope this helps you all out a lot to see when certain words are all right to use and when they aren’t.

Happy writing!

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  1. This is one of my favorite blog posts about “alot.” http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/04/alot-is-better-than-you-at-everything.html

    (The rest of the posts on this blog have some less-than-nice language, but this post is curse free…and funny.)

  2. allright, I will try and check my grammar alot more often.

  3. if people have google chrome, it will at least spell check for you. Thats what I have to have, bless my soul.

  4. OK…I’ll be facetious (a little) and say that words are cultural constructs; they mean and are spelled how we as a whole want them to be, which is why there are different languages; who is a dictionary editor to say how something should be spelled? There is no such thing as that kind of authority. When the first idea of a dictionary was introduced in the 1700s, it was just a snapshot of how people were using words at that time (and a desire to distinguish the nascent “American” identity from that of the British). Dictionaries are always evolving just as language does anyways, which kind of puts them on shaky ground, I think! ;)

    So…I’ve always been one of those grammar monitors, and it does bug me when people use words ‘wrongly,’ but aside from certain institutions where there has to be a standard/common ground, I try to remember that language is dynamic, flexible, and always changing, and that is why it’s so awesome.

    p.s. I love that “alot” blog.

  5. Thanks for the comments, Ladies!

    @Natalie – Hilarious! The mental image of Alot is great!

    @Sarah – Spell check is an invention of incalculable worth.

    @Nikki – Yes! Watching language evolve is so interesting. I had a prof in college who constantly talked about words and their histories within our language. I loved listening to him!

    As an English teacher, however, I found that there must be some sort of foundational absolute within spelling and grammar (who is that guy or gal is out there that decides though??) Without it, basic writing becomes completely subjective. Of course, some would have English teachers teach only subjective writing… but that’s another conversation for another day.

    I do fully expect for at least the word “alright” to be in the dictionary before my death. And, frankly, that will be all right with me! :)

  6. I have to admit that “alright” doesn’t really bother me. I think that the internet has grown to be such a part of our communication, and a lot of the conversations that we now have online, through chat or over facebook, are conversations that in the past would have been spoken, oral/aural conversations. “Alright” almost seems like a contraction in my mind, for convenience and slang’s sake. The casualness of conversation makes it seem more okay, to me. Now, hopefully people will continue to be taught that all right is the proper form to use in writings, essays, etc.

  7. I dunno…its facebook so I don’t see why it all really matters. It’s not life or death. It’s just for fun.

  8. Cool…I didn’t know you were an English teacher. I studied English in college but never had any desire to teach it. History perhaps.. ;) Actually I took a linguistics class where she both insisted on the subjectivity of language (rightly so) AND grammar-book accuracy in our written projects. :) She didn’t see a contradiction, though a few of the students liked to bring it up pretty often (mostly when they got bad grades). :) The history of language is one of the most interesting things to me!

  9. Sarah – true… but you’d be surprised at how many people think that the “slang” way to write, type, text is the same way to write an essay, application, or business letter. It’s truly sad. Like Natalie said, slang on fb or in any other casual site should be different from a more proper setting. Unfortunately, I have seen first hand that this line is all too often being blurred. It doesn’t bother me as much seeing it on fb as it does seeing it other places…

    Nikki – I was a double major in English and history. I taught both for nearly three years. Now I stay home with my little girl! I loved teaching, but I love staying home more. :)

  10. The context of your blog post is your frustration over facebook statuses, right?

    I appreciate what you are trying to get across. I have lots to learn…one of the pro’s of homeschooling your kids…you get to relearn everything!

  11. YAY for homeschooling, Sarah! I’m looking forward to relearning science (and trying to be excited about relearning math – ha, ha!).

    I did begin this blog post by griping about fb statuses, but I should have expanded that frustration to include many of my readings online including, but not limited to, blogs, news reports, magazine articles, comments on these, etc. It concerns me that people are not able to differentiate between formal and informal writing in these places.

    Of course, it’s all still a learning process for me too. For some crazy reason, I really like grammar… weird? yes…. But, maybe we can start a homeschool co-op one of these days, and you can teach something fun like math!! :)

  12. Negative…Dallas will probably be teaching math. LOL!

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