Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pet Peeve of the Day: Alright Is Not a Word

Unless Merriam and Webster come back from the grave and tell me differently, I will not accept alright as a word. Certainly, you may find it in the dictionary. That does not mean that you should use it.

If you doubt my word, check the definition yourself. The reason it has been included is that so many people use it. Explaining how a bank robber escaped doesn't equal condoning his actions, does it?

Use “all right”, if you must. The phrase has its place in dialog and informal writing. It covers a wide range of adverbial and adjectival functions, generally meaning acceptable or satisfactory. It conveys a mediocre level of the word it modifies, as when “doing all right” means “I'm okay” but not “Life is great!”

Get out that pesky Thesaurus and find better words to describe what you think of as “all right”. An “all-right guy” could be boring but reliable. The term is broad enough to have little meaning, much like the equivalent term “okay”. Replace it with a more specific word when you edit. You can strengthen an all-right piece that would have made readers think, “Ho hum.”

Before you tell me, I know, I know. But Messieurs Webster and Merriam did not write that. I'm holding out for spirit communication.