Are You All Right?

There was a small earthquake last month that you probably didn’t notice. My May 21 post featured this list of problematic words:

So what was the earthquake? Here it is: After 30 years of railing against the common one-word spelling, I finally removed all right from the list.

The turning point for me was a blog post from James Harbeck that made these sensible points:

  1.  There are two possible meanings of all right, so it makes sense to have two spellings.

Your answers on the test were all right.

If you’re feeling all right tomorrow, we’ll go shopping. 

2.  We already have two spellings of all ready for the same reason.

Your hotel room is all ready for you.

I already made the reservation for our hotel room.

3.  The one-word spelling has been around for 100 years.

4.  Use of the one-word spelling has increased 500% since 1960.

You’ll notice that nowhere in this post have I written the one-word version of all right. There are limits to how much I can stretch! To me it still looks like a misspelling, and I still get that shake-a-finger-at-you impulse.

But I did revise my list, and I’m really pleased that James Harbeck made such a sensible case for the change. If you have time to read his post, it’s a model of thoughtful decision-making about English usage.

The times, they are a-changin’ – as they always have and always will, at least as far as language is concerned! 

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