Notes on the Third Edition: Most Things Are Still All Right

One of the things I do when revising Common Errors in English Usage for a new edition is to take into account changes in usage which may make changes to my wording appropriate.

This time I decided that the one-word spelling “alright” had become so common that I should change  my wording on p. 13 to say that the two-word spelling “all right” is “traditional” rather than “correct."

In popular song lyrics “alright” is very common, but since people far more often hear lyrics than read them, this spelling isn’t particularly prominent. Where it really prevails is in movie subtitles. I watch a lot of foreign films and operas, and I can remember only two cases where I’ve seen “all right” in subtitles rather than “alright.”

But I somewhat inconsistently let stand the statement that “it is actually two words” out of the conviction that the traditional spelling still prevails in most sources.

And* indeed a Google check shows that “all right” is approximately 39 times more common on the Web than “alright” and in Google books “all right” is approximately 134 times more common than “alright.” Even allowing for irrelevant hits like “all right-thinking people agree” it’s clear that “alright” has not triumphed.

So even if you’re “feelin’ alright” while listening to the classic song by Traffic, you may expect editors to want you to change your spelling when you’re writing about something other than popular music.

        *Bothered by beginning a sentence with a conjunction? See the entry at the bottom of p. 65. Object to sentence fragments? See the bottom of p. 262.

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