Difference between ‘alright’ and ‘all right’ in English

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

The only traditionally accepted way to write the expression “all right” (meaning “acceptable, satisfactory”) is as two separate words. This seems counterintuitive, since the majority of expressions of the form “all + something”, where “all” is used to mean “in a general manner”, are spelled as a single word, for example,

already, almost, although, altogether, always.

One notable exception is “all-around”, which is spelled with a hyphen:

He’s an all-around good guy.

However, “all right” is never spelled with a hyphen. So, how should you write “all right + noun”, as in “he did an all right job?” The answer is: You shouldn’t. Using “all right” as an adjective before a noun is generally discouraged and considered somewhat acceptable only in colloquial speech, but not in writing.

Perhaps the following terrible pun will help you remember the correct spelling:

Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He’s all right now.

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.

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