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In practice I find both spellings being used. From a logical point of view, "allright" (as in: "all's right — everything is fine") seems correct. However, I recall hearing that "alright" is the preferable variant.

Is there consensus over which to use? Do they possibly even mean something different?

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10 Answers 10

up vote 56 down vote accepted

Wiktionary marks alright as an "alternative spelling" of all right, and allright as a "common misspelling" thereof. Merriam-Webster only has entries for alright and all right, and this usage discussion:

The one-word spelling alright appeared some 75 years after all right itself had reappeared from a 400-year-long absence. Since the early 20th century some critics have insisted alright is wrong, but it has its defenders and its users. It is less frequent than all right but remains in common use especially in journalistic and business publications. It is quite common in fictional dialogue, and is used occasionally in other writing <the first two years of medical school were alright — Gertrude Stein>.

The stats from the Corpus of Contemporary American English and the British National Corpus look as follows:

            COCA   BNC

all right  59013   6384
alright     1888   8328
allright      36      3

This suggests that alright is much more popular in Britain than in the US. However, the Corpus of Historical American English paints the following picture:

Usage stats

X axis: year, Y axis: incidences per million words.

So, alright seems to be gaining popularity in the States as well.

Lastly, the fact that all right loses one L when written as one word is not peculiar in the least — just think of already, almost, although, albeit, almighty, altogether, and any number of other words formed this way.

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cf. This blowhard's prognostication –  Robusto Feb 17 '11 at 13:32
One can use this analysis to judge whether such words as "altogether", supposedly derived from "all together", shed light on the matter. Advocates of "alright" claim that it can be used interchangeably with "all right"; otherwise why ask which one to use? But a little thought will demonstrate that "altogether" is generally not a substitute for "all together". For example, "When they were all together, the kids were happy enough, but they weren't altogether happy." Clear in meaning, certainly true in some cases, but also proof that "all together" and "altogether" aren't the same thing. –  Larry Terrell Apr 13 at 3:13
The graph above shows that the usage of "all right" peaked in the 1940's. It would be instructive to see what was happening to the usage of "OK" during the period covered by the graph, and whether it appeared to be displacing "all right". Remember that "OK" was an acronym derived from the jokingly-spelled "Oll Korrect." Looks a lot like "all right" to me. –  Larry Terrell Apr 13 at 3:41

The second spelling requires a space: it is either “alright” or “all right”.

The New Oxford American Dictionary says:

Usage: The merging of all and right to form the one-word spelling alright is first recorded toward the end of the 19th century (unlike other similar merged spellings such as altogether and already, which date from much earlier). There is no logical reason for insisting that all right be two words when other single-word forms such as altogether have long been accepted. Nevertheless, although found widely, alright remains nonstandard.

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I was taught that "alright" was never correct. I don't see any problem with it in informal contexts, but I would avoid it elsewhere.

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I'm my humble and uninformed opinion they are both correct, but are a little different.

I would use "alright" in a sentence such as: "Alright, I finished fixing the engine, now to test it.", or "alright, alright already, I'll fix the brakes." while I would say "The car's running all right, but it really needs a wash."

So, I would use "all right" when it really means all of it's right, while "alright" is used in more informal or derivative uses where it doesn't really mean all is right.

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To my (overly pedantic) mind, "all right" is the only correct spelling. The other abominations arose from the colloquial "alrighty," as an analog to "already," I suspect.

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So, how would you distinguish between Your homework is all right and Your homework is alright? –  TRiG Jun 22 '11 at 10:25
I would call the latter "completely wrong." But, like many things in English, it's completely acceptable these days. Language evolves. –  Fixee Jun 22 '11 at 15:26
I'd distinguish between all right, meaning completely correct, and alright, meaning "acceptable". –  TRiG Jun 22 '11 at 17:24
Makes sense in a way, but I think you're alone in making this distinction. In particular, it'd be hard to distinguish these when spoken (rather than written). –  Fixee Jun 22 '11 at 18:00

According to Collins Dictionary and Thesaurus (UK, 2nd ed. 2000):

alright is "a variant spelling of all right."
"USAGE NOTE The form alright, though very common, is still considered by many people to be wrong or less acceptable"

The entry for all right includes:
"all-right (US slang) acceptable; reliable."

allright doesn't even merit an entry.

So 'alright' is all right, but 'allright' is wrong, at least in my book.

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The British Shorter Oxford Dictionary as of 1992 lists alright as

frequent sp. of all right 1893.

The Australian Macquarie Dictionary as of 1991 simply has

adj., adv., interj. → all right.

Personally I always use alright even though I'm aware some pedants might not approve.

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"All right" is the correct phrase according to almost all grammarians and as per correct usage.

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At Grammar School, in Britain, circa 1955, we were taught that the correct spelling was alright.

I have no objection to anyone spelling it all right, but for me alright it shall remain until my dying day.

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Thirty years later and half a world away, our dutifully bookcovered, California middlebrow, Houghton Mifflin textbooks opined just the opposite: "Alright is all wrong." –  choster Jan 28 at 22:20
@choster Since California is 120 degrees west of Greenwich, it was only a third of a world away. ;) –  tchrist Jan 28 at 22:35
@tchrist Since the school where I learned to spell alright is in the minor portion of the UK which is east of Greenwich, you need to add a further 1.297 degrees to your calculation. –  WS2 Jan 28 at 23:07

In my view, "all right", as a phrase, means "OK", "nominal", or "acceptable", as in "The fix was all right, but clearly not intended as a long-term solution." The claim that "all right" somehow implies "correct in every way" is belied by the fact that while it juxtaposes the two words, it doesn't form an integral phrase. This is emphatically conveyed by the expression "just all right", which would be quite a stretch to interpret as "merely correct in every way." For these and other reasons, I view "alright" as a lazy variant that has muscled its way into English, but I don't see how it adds anything useful or esthetic.

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protected by tchrist Jul 1 '14 at 0:42

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