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.
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