>All Right

>Twice in the last hour, in two separate publications (one a newish but respected literary journal, the other a new story collection by a hot, hip author, from a small but reputable house), I have come across the word “alright.” Whenever I see this word in a story I am critiquing in workshop or for a friend, I circle it. Whenever I see this word in a story submitted to Shenandoah, I make a mental note (more like a mental black mark). Bryan Garner, in Garner’s Modern American Usage, has this to say:

“Alright” for “all right” has never been accepted as standard in American English. Gertrude Stein used the shorter form, but that is not much of a recommendation. . . This short version may be gaining a shadowy acceptance in British English (where appearances in print are more common than in American English). Still, the combined version cannot yet be considered standard—or even colloquially all right.

A little stuffy, maybe, but I’m in complete agreement with Bryan.

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  1. >I’m cringing as I read this, for all of the times that I’ve used “alright” (try 100%).

    Live and learn. Thanks for the info.

  2. >I’m not sure what people are being taught these days, Cate. But I highly recommend the Garner book, which has a prominent home on my writing desk.

  3. >I always use all right, too, but I have heard that even some purists accept “alright” when it appears in dialogue or is used with other forms of dialect in exposition.

  4. >Mary,
    I guess I’ve heard that, too, about dialogue, which can excuse lots of usage transgressions, but in this case I don’t buy it because “alright” would be pronounced the same as “all right”–hence the usage confusion–so it should be represented correctly even in dialogue. (Another example of usage confusion is “of” for “have,” but that’s sufficiently distinct in pronounciation that it makes sense in dialect/dialogue–as in, “I would of if I could of”–but not otherwise.) As for dialect, I would definitely understand “a’ight” (now that I know what it means) or some variation. (But not “alright.”)

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