Alright or All Right?

by Craig Shrives

"Alright" or "All Right"?

Here is a summary of "alright" and "all right":
  • "Alright" is a non-standard variant of "all right."
  • Even though "alright" is becoming more acceptable, it is best avoided in formal writing.
This infographic includes a graph created by Google's Ngram viewer. It shows the gradual and recent rise of "alright."

alright or all right?
See the graph for your yourself.

"Alright" Is Still Not Widely Accepted

Many people use "alright" unaware that it is not universally accepted as a word. It should be written "all right." However, the merger of "all right" to "alright" has been underway for over a century, and it is becoming more acceptable. Mergers such as "altogether" and "already" are fully acceptable. They are far older than "alright."

It's Not Right, and It's Not Wrong

Interestingly, the Microsoft Word spellchecker will not highlight "alright" as an error, but it will also not suggest "alright" if you spell it incorrectly. In other words, Microsoft's grammarians are, like many of us, still sitting on the fence with regard to "alright" being accepted as standard.

spellchecker ignoring alright
(MS Word does not show "alright" as an error, but it does not offer "alright" as an option.)

"Alright" Is Considered More Modern by Some

Some argue that, through common usage over the last century, "alright" has become more acceptable than "all right." The makers of TV show "It'll Be Alright on the Night" are known to have considered "It'll Be All Right on the Night" but opted for the former as a more modern version.

Avoid "Alright" and "All Right"

It is likely that your readers will have different opinions on "alright" and "all right." Therefore, the safest option is to avoid both versions — especially in formal writing. This should not be difficult as they do not lend themselves to formal writing. Here are some examples of avoiding "all right" and "alright":

All right (to reinforce an assertion)
  • It is overdue all right.
  • (Delete "all right" or reword.)
  • It is substantially overdue.
All right (an interjection that means "very well" and normally at the start of a sentence)
  • All right, it is time to discuss Kevin.
  • (Delete "all right" or reword.)
  • We agree that it is time to discuss Kevin.
All right (meaning "okay," "in a satisfactory manner")
  • Her work ethic was all right.
  • (Reword.)
  • Her work ethic was satisfactory.

Use "All Right" in Formal Writing

If you cannot avoid "all right" or "alright," then opt for "all right." No one will argue that "all right" is incorrect.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? Common errors in writing Easily confused words