Decoding Alright vs All Right: How to Choose the Right Word

Finding a definitive answer to the alright vs all right question is vital to making your English writing clear and accurate.

Are you all right or alright? This word or phrase, which English speakers use to mean “ok” or “yes” is something people commonly get mixed up. Because the word and phrase have the same meaning, they are commonly confused words.

Yet if you are going to be a careful English writer, you need to know the difference. Here's everything you need to know about these two words.

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Alright vs All Right — Decoding The Difference

The word “alright” works in a sentence as an adjective or adverb. It can also sometimes be an exclamation. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “alright” as “all right,” which shows that the two words and one-word constructs are really the same things. Both British English and American English have the same concern over which is the acceptable form of this word.

Decoding alright vs all right how to pick the right word

The challenge with this word is it's an English word that was made from the combination of “all” and “right” into one word. Thus, the single-word construct often takes the place of the two-word phrase. So, there is not much difference between the two words.

Both “all right” and “alright” describe something that is acceptable, but not best. These word forms can also mean “yes” or “okay” depending on the meaning of the sentence.

Formal Writing Usually Requires All Right

If the two words mean the same thing and therefore are synonyms, writers would be accurate to state that they can use either one. However, in formal writing, this is not the case.

In formal writing, “all right” is almost always preferred. However, the writer will need to check the English grammar guide approved for the writing project to ensure that using “alright” is frowned upon. 

Style Guides Disagree

Style guides have not yet come to a consensus on the “alright” vs “all right” word forms question. 

The Associated Press Stylebook states that “all right” is always the preferred spelling and advocates for hyphens when the phrase is used as a modifier. However, The Chicago Manual of Style says the use is arbitrary and up to the writer, because both spellings are correct usages of these words.

In Garner's Modern American Usage “alright” is frowned upon, but Lexicon and Merriam-Webster both agree that is now part of standard English writing, similar to “already” and “altogether” as combinations of “all ready” and “all together.”

A History of Alright vs All Right

The acceptability of alright vs. all right can seem like a new one brought on by modern spoken language, but in reality, this issue has been around for centuries. In Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog, Mark Twain, the famous writer of the mid-1800s, used “alright” instead of “all right.”

Yet this wasn't the first example of “alright” in formal writing. The first mentions of the word were found in the Middle Ages before 1400.

In more modern times, the 1922 novel Ulysses by James Joyce used “alright.” Even more recently in the 1970s The Who, a British rock band, used the spelling in its song “The Kids are Alright.” Interestingly, in 2018 a sitcom took the same name but spelled it as “The Kids Are All Right.”

Is “Alright” A Legitimate Word or Misspelling?

Alright vs All right
Both alright and all right means “ok” or “yes”

The modern English dictionary contains many words, like “ain't,” that aren't considered “real words” to grammarians. This begs the question of whether or not “alright” is a real word or just another colloquialism or misspelling that has made its way into the dictionary.

Even though “alright” has its origins in combining two words into one word, It is now recognized as a real word. This word choice has shown up in music titles, classic literature and modern dictionaries Today, “alright” and “all right” are interchangeable, with the exception of uses in formal writing.

The Final Word on Alright vs All Right

In formal writing of the English language, writers are best served by choosing all right. While some style guides allow for “alright,” others do not, and “all right” is never incorrect. In formal writing, err on the side of caution by using “all right,” but in everyday writing, either is fine.

FAQs About Alright vs All Right

Is alright a real word?

Yes, alright is a real word that is part of the modern English dictionary. It is the one-word combination of “all right” and has the same meaning as the two-word spelling. Both “all right” and “alright” are the correct spelling of this word.

How is “all right” used in a sentence?

“All right” is a two-word phrase that can be used as an adjective, adverb, interjection or exclamation. It can be used to describe something that is acceptable, but not exceptional, or as an exclamation to get attention before making another statement, as in “All right! It's time to get going!”

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  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.

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