As some­one who gets paid to cor­rect oth­ers’ gram­mar, it shouldn’t come as a sur­prise to any­one that I’ve heard more than my fair share of peo­ple spout­ing off gram­mat­i­cal rules. Some of those rules are legit­i­mate, while oth­ers are made-up and noth­ing more than myths. In fact, here’s a myth:

Alright” isn’t a real word and should be writ­ten as “all right”.

This is anoth­er one of those made-up rules; “alright” is a legit­i­mate word with a wide usage.

First of all, it’s been in usage for over 300 years. While most gram­mar­i­ans who approve using “alright” quote the Online Ety­mol­o­gy Dic­tio­nary, which claims its ear­li­est writ­ten usage was in 1893, it’s impor­tant to note that it’s much old­er than that.

The late Hele­na Men­nie Shire in her book Song, Dance and Poet­ry of the Court of Scot­land Under King James VI includ­ed a song called “Into a Mirth­ful May Morn­ing” (p. 30). The third verse is as fol­lows:

Where­fore I pray have mind on me
True Love, where ever you be:
Where ever I go, both to and from
You have my heart alright.
O Lady! fair of hew
I med com­mend to you
Both the day and night.

In her notes that accom­pa­ny the song, she indi­cat­ed that this verse appeared in John Squyer’s Music-Book, which itself had a pub­li­ca­tion date of 1701.

Sec­ond of all, the Google Books NGram view­er shows that although it’s been around for that peri­od, it nev­er real­ly took off until the turn of the last cen­tu­ry, explod­ing in pop­u­lar­i­ty in the 1960s. So, it’s been around for over 300 years and been gain­ing usage for over 100 years.

Third, the Oxford Eng­lish Dic­tio­nary points out that while most usage guides crit­i­cize “alright”, they do so “with­out cogent rea­sons”, which is pre­cise­ly my point in the third para­graph of this post.

All that being said, I warn you to use “alright” with care. “All right” is far more pop­u­lar.

Many peo­ple are still stick­lers for “all right” and con­sid­er “alright” to be incor­rect. Until that changes, you may want to reserve “alright” for more infor­mal appli­ca­tions. I can’t be held respon­si­ble for any­thing that hap­pens to you if you choose to be a gram­mar pio­neer.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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