Alright vs. all right?

Alright and all right are essentially the same word, but “all right” is the correct spelling for standard English. Most editors and teachers consider “alright” to be informal or a misspelling, all together.

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What is the difference between alright vs. all right?

The word alright is an adjective, adverb, and exclamation that simply combines “all right” into one word. English speakers say “alright” in place of expressions like, “yes,” “okay,” “for sure,” or to describe something as acceptable, but not “the best.” 

Ninety-nine percent of the time, the words alright and all right share the same meaning. The confusion between the two expressions comes down to English grammar guides and what they consider proper English for formal writing. 

Is alright formal?

Thanks to Mark Twain’s Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog, writers have used alright and all right interchangeably since 1865. But for some reason, many writing style guides insist that alright is a misspelling or that it’s informal to use. For instance, The Associated Press Stylebook instructs writers never to use alright and to hyphenate “all-right” for colloquial compound modifiers (“All right” 13). 

Garner’s Modern American Usage also looks down on the use of alright by explaining how it’s never been the standard form for American English. However, the Oxford dictionary notes how the one-word spelling is gaining popularity in British English (Garner 35). 

Meanwhile, The Chicago Manual of Style Online (CMS) views the dispute between all right and alright as “arbitrary,” indicating that writers should use their best judgment. CMS also quotes Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage stating,  “…alright seems to be popular in the personal correspondence of “the moderately educated young.”

Online dictionaries like Merriam-Webster and Lexicon agree there’s no logical reason to distinguish alright as non-standard English. After all, words like “already” (all ready) and “altogether” (all together) combine phrases too, but they are the “formal” standard instead of their two-word counterparts. 

Is alright a real word?

Regardless of what grammar authorities claim about the term “alright,” it’s still a recognized word. According to the Columbia Journalism Review, the word alright entered the English Language through the Middle Ages (circa 476-1453 CE) before splitting into two words for “all right.” 

Furthermore, there are several upstanding examples of when writers use alright instead of all right. Music artists like Kendrick Lamar, Logic, and Janet Jackson all have songs titled “Alright.” 

The Who, a British rock band, also released the popular song and album, “The Kids Are Alright,” in 1979, which is the title of a 2018 ABC sitcom. But interestingly enough, the 2010 movie “The Kids Are All Right,” decided to adjust the phrase to contain the preferred English spelling. 

The word alright is also found within nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and children’s book titles–– an editorial decision once supported by modernist author and editor, Gertrude Stein. Even James Joyce used “alright” instead of “all right” for his 1922 novel, Ulysses

What’s the consensus? Alright or all right?

Academics and professional editors believe that “all right” is the correct spelling, so it’s best to avoid using alright for formal writing platforms. But for creative or informal writing, “alright” is an acceptable form to use. If the single-word version continues to gain popularity, it’s possible that alright will become the standard form. 

What does alright mean?

The word alright is the non-standard version of the phrase “all right” and it’s written as an adverb, adjective, or exclamation. 

Alright as an adverb

We use the term alright as an adverb to describe a manner as acceptable, satisfactory, or even “okay.” In this sense, “alright” represents the minimum standard of what’s “good” or “passable.” For example,

“They performed alright, but they should have practiced more …” or
“I’m feeling alright.” 

The second way to use the adverb alright is to express certainty similarly to “for sure,” “by all means,” or “damn well.” For example,

“He bombed the test, alright–– he scored higher than five percent of his class!”

Adverb synonyms

1.) Absolutely, assuredly, aye, certainly, indeed, exactly, okay, yay, yeah, yes. 

2.) Certainly, clearly, conceivably, likely, definitely, easily, incontestably, indisputably, truly, undeniably, unmistakably. 

Adverb antonyms

1). Nay, no, scarcely. 

Alright as an adjective

The first way to use alright as an adjective is to describe something as satisfactory or “good enough.” For example, 

“Safari is alright, but we prefer Google Chrome …,”  or
“My English teacher is alright.” 

Alternatively, we can use the adjective alright to convey that something is safe from harm or loss. For example,

“Are you alright?” 
“No matter what happens, we will be alright.” 

Adjective synonyms

1.) Adequate, agreeable, copacetic, decent, fine, good, nice, okay, passable, reasonable, suitable, tolerable.

2.) Healthy, intact, safe, secure, sound, well, unharmed, uninjured, unscathed. 

Adjective antonyms

1). Bad, deficient, disagreeable, inferior, lousy, mediocre, poor, substandard, unacceptable, unsatisfactory.

2.) Damaged, endangered, harmed, hurt, injured, imperiled, susceptible, unsafe, wounded, vulnerable. 

Alright as an exclamation

In terms of consent or agreeability, we can use the word alright instead of “okay” or “fine.” The key to using alright for this sense is that it needs to convey permissibility. For example,

Alright, I will go to the store,” or
Alright, you can enter the house.” 

Exclamation synonyms

Acceptably, adequately, correctly, decently, fine, nicely, okay, respectably, satisfactorily, suitably, sufficiently, tolerably. 

Exclamation antonyms

Bad, badly, inadequately, insufficiently, intolerably, poorly, unacceptably, unsatisfactorily. 

What does all right mean?

The phrase “all right” has the same meaning as “alright” except for the topic of morality. In this case, we use the phrase “all right” as an adjective to describe something as meeting a specific high, moral, or virtuous standard. 

For example, 

“She’s an all right person. She wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
“We didn’t expect this from him. He’s an all right person, after all.” 

Synonyms of “all right.”

Decent, ethical, good, honest, just, moral, nice, noble, proper, righteous, true, upstanding, virtuous. 

Antonyms of “all right.”

Bad, corrupt, debased, debauched, degenerate, depraved, dishonest, evil, immoral, improper, low, sinful, unbecoming, unprincipled, unseemly, wicked, vile.

What about aight?

The colloquial aight (or “ight“) is common for American English, which omits the letters l and r. Aight is spelled and pronounced differently, but it means the same thing as “all right” and “alright.” For example,

Aight, I’ll see you later.” 
“It was aight.” 

How do you use the word alright in a sentence?

In most circumstances, it’s best to avoid using the word alright instead of “all right.” But since the informal version remains popular, let’s review how to use “already” in a sentence best. 

Adverb examples for alright

“As long as we study, we should be alright for the test.”
“We had fun, alright.” 

Adjective examples for alright

“The movie was alright.” 
“I hope they’re alright.”
“It’s alright with me.”

Exclamation examples for alright

Alright, I’ve had enough of this nonsense.”
Alright, will you tell me?”

How do you use the phrase all right in a sentence?

Between alright and all right, the phrase all right is the proper form to use. Here’s a brief recap on how to writeall right” as an adverb, adjective, or exclamation.

Adjective examples for all right

“The food was all right.” 
“Are you all right?” 
“Shopping is all right as long as you pay the bills.” 
“Is it all right to leave?”

Adverb examples for all right

“I think the speech went all right.”
“Despite the loss, we played all right.”
“The child is smart, all right.”
“You’re telling me, all right.”

Exclamation examples for all right

All right, all right, I was wrong.” 
All right, fine. Let’s go to the movies.”
“I told you already, the answer is no, all right!”

How to use “all right” for AP style writing?

If you’re writing for a professional publisher that uses The Associated Press Stylebook, you must remember to use “all right” instead of alright. More specifically, you’ll need to learn where to add hyphens when it’s appropriate. 

The AP Stylebook advises writers to use hyphens for all right when it’s a compound modifier (also known as a phrasal adjective). Compound modifiers are jointed words that modify a noun. Therefore, if you’re using “all right” as an adjective before a noun, you’d use a hyphen. For example, 

“She’s an all-right driver.” 
“Dad is an all-right cook.”

Test Yourself!

Is it all right to use alright? You should know the answer by now. See how much you’ve learned about alright vs. all right with the following multiple-choice questions. 

  1. True or false: “All right” is the proper English spelling of “alright.”
    a. True
    b. False
  2. “All right” and “alright” have different meanings for which context?
    a. Agreement or saying “yes.”
    b. Conveying acceptability.
    c. Describing moral character.
    d. Stating “for sure.”  
  3. Which word is not synonymous with “alright” or “all right”?
    a. Mediocre
    b. Great
    c. Fantastic 
    d. All of the above
  4. Which writing reference forbids the use of “alright”?
    a. The Chicago Manual of Style
    b. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary
    c. The Associated Press Stylebook
    d. None of the above
  5. Which sentence represents informal writing? 
    a. “I’m an all right can-can dancer.” 
    b. “It’s an all-right book, I think.”
    c. “Everything is going to be alright.”
    d. “They are commonly confused words, all right.” 

Answers

  1. A
  2. C
  3. D
  4. C
  5. C

Sources

  1. “All right.” The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law 2017, pp. 13, The Associated Press, July 2017. 
  2. Aight.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  3. Alright.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  4. Alright.” The Merriam-Webster.com Thesaraus, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  5. All right.” The Merriam-Webster.com Thesaraus, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  6. All right.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  7. Garner, B. “All right; *alright.” Garner’s Modern American Usage, pp. 35, Oxford University Press, 28 Jul 2009. 
  8. Perlman, M. “But It’s Alright: Alright may not be all wrong.” Columbia Journalism Review, 1 Sept 2008. 
  9. Schiess, W. “The compound-modifier hyphen connects and clarifies.” Legible, University of Texas, Austin, 21 July 2014. 
  10. Twain, M (1865). “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog.” Holmes County Farmer, vol. 27, (Millersburg, Ohio), 28 Dec. 1865. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress, 2020.
  11. Usage and Grammar.” The Chicago Manual of Style Online, The Chicago Manual of Style 17th edition text, 2017.