All Together Now: It’s Not Alright

We’ve all heard people bark the phrase, “Alright, already!” And we know, generally, that this means they want someone to discontinue an annoying behavior. Most annoying to many grammarians is the common misuse of the three “al” siblings: alright, already, and altogether.

What is all right? And what is all wrong?

Let’s start with alright. Contrary to what your spell-check may tell you, the word alright does not exist in standard English. If you want to use it (as I’m about to), alright. But be aware that it is an alternative, and technically incorrect, spelling of the phrase “all right.”

The phrase “all right” has multiple meanings. If something is agreeable or acceptable to you, you could say, “It’s all right with me.” You could feel all right (healthy) or do an all-right job (mediocre). And if you wanted to emphasize a point, you might use the phrase this way: “It’s pouring, all right.”

Unlike the alright/all right duo, all together and altogether are both standard English. But they’re not synonymous. Altogether is an adverb meaning utterly or completely. “It’s altogether shocking that anyone would use alright.” All together, on the other hand, is a phrase meaning “in a group.”

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