Friday, January 13, 2006

All Right

Twice in the last hour, in two separate publications (one a newish but respected literary journal, the other a new story collection by a hot, hip author, from a small but reputable house), I have come across the word “alright.” Whenever I see this word in a story I am critiquing in workshop or for a friend, I circle it. Whenever I see this word in a story submitted to Shenandoah, I make a mental note (more like a mental black mark). Bryan Garner, in Garner's Modern American Usage, has this to say:

“Alright” for “all right” has never been accepted as standard in American English. Gertrude Stein used the shorter form, but that is not much of a recommendation. . . This short version may be gaining a shadowy acceptance in British English (where appearances in print are more common than in American English). Still, the combined version cannot yet be considered standard—or even colloquially all right.

A little stuffy, maybe, but I’m in complete agreement with Bryan.


Cate said...

I'm cringing as I read this, for all of the times that I've used "alright" (try 100%).

Live and learn. Thanks for the info.

Clifford Garstang said...

I'm not sure what people are being taught these days, Cate. But I highly recommend the Garner book, which has a prominent home on my writing desk.

Mary Akers said...

I always use all right, too, but I have heard that even some purists accept "alright" when it appears in dialogue or is used with other forms of dialect in exposition.

Clifford Garstang said...

I guess I've heard that, too, about dialogue, which can excuse lots of usage transgressions, but in this case I don't buy it because "alright" would be pronounced the same as "all right"--hence the usage confusion--so it should be represented correctly even in dialogue. (Another example of usage confusion is "of" for "have," but that's sufficiently distinct in pronounciation that it makes sense in dialect/dialogue--as in, "I would of if I could of"--but not otherwise.) As for dialect, I would definitely understand "a'ight" (now that I know what it means) or some variation. (But not "alright.")