Yesterday I finished reading two great books, Defending Jacob and Mission Flats, both written by William Landay. I enjoyed Defending Jacob so much that I immediately upon finishing it ordered Landay’s first book, Mission Flats.
But, one thing bothered me throughout the reading and began to really gnaw at me the more I read. You know how that is, you can’t let it go. Landay’s characters (all of them) said, “alright” over and over. In fact I really got tired of hearing “alright” uttered by every single person. When I first noted the word, I saw it was misspelled. I began thinking that perhaps “alright” is acceptable in dialogue. Seeing it over and over in Mission Flats took me out of the story and directly onto Google. Could “alright” be all right all of a sudden? I had learned in the fourth grade that all right was two words. Had things changed?
On Google I learned from the Grammar Girl that alright is NOT all right. Her post confirmed everything my fourth grade, be-speckled teacher in sensible shoes said, “all right is spelled as two words.” (or did she say all right are spelled as two words?). Altogether and all together can mean two different things depending on the one-word or two-word spelling, and all ready and already also have two different meanings. But all right has one meaning and one spelling.
Some of the sources hinted that “alright” may be moving into the vernacular, particularly in England. But it’s not there yet.
If you decide to read these two books–which I highly recommend, don’t get confused. Alright is misspelled! And Landay uses it over and over. In fact he overuses the word. Had I been his editor I would have not only corrected the spelling, I would have told him to do a search for how many times he used that expression. Once I noted it three times on one page!
Mr. Landay, you’re a great writer and now that you’ve published two remarkable books, you could probably afford an editor. . .
All right already! (Oops or is it all right all ready?)
Tahlia Newland says
How embarrasing for him. I’m not an editor but even I could have told him that. Mind you, my editor told me. It might be a good book, but I wouldn’t allow it on the Awesome Indies site until he’d fixed it. http://aweseomeindies.wordpress.com
Joan Curtis says
Hey Tahlia, Yep, it’s too bad this error slipped by because the books are great. What’s sad is many people will read them and believe that alright is all right. So. . . what can we do? No wonder our kids do not know how to spell!
Horst Woyde says
Oh, come on guys. Be generous. If the book is great, one misspelled word shouldn’t cause so much consternation. John Dos Passos and Ernest Hemingway mangled their words horribly, and both were highly acclaimed. As to alright, allright, and all right, I’ve seen the three versions in lots of books by good writers. Of course this doesn’t mean that it is all right to misspell words.
John Wiswell says
I have seen the compound word “alright” in letters and homework assignments since I was in elementary school. I’m American and that was twenty years ago. Its ubiquity in e-mails and instant messages today leaves me feeling it’s fine as a word, particularly as a compound word. It’s “alrite” that bugs me, but probably won’t bug my kids. “All right” has a more singular meaning than most compound words, like “they’re” or “I’m,” which really possess compound meanings, leaving it even less offensive. It essentially means “copacetic” (“Is everything alright?” or when you agree with someone, saying, “Alright”). Particularly for dialogue, I wouldn’t be bothered. I’m actually surprised Grammar Girl would go against it.
Joan Curtis says
I’ve had some very interesting responses to this post. It brought out the inner-grammarian in all of us. One thing I might share is this link. The agent writing this post thinks we, as writers, have a duty to be more diligent with our use of language.
Meantime, much fodder for thought. . .
Great post! 😀
Suzanne Byrne says
I agree. Also, I think the author may be erring on the side of dialect, jargon, or simply how someone or a group sound to each other when speaking. I haven’t read his work, but if he is a good novelist, I would have to think the usage of ‘alright’ is intentional and appropriate.
Robin Levin says
For what it’s worth I looked up alright in my Franklin Scrabble dictionary and there it was. The English language is an evolving entity and what is unacceptable in one decade may be perfectly permissable in the next. I listened to Defending Jacob on my kindle while exercising on my treadclimber and it thought it was quite alright.
Joan Curtis says
Yes, Robin, I realize that alright is becoming part of English, but when your readers stop reading and think about your word choice, you’ve lost them. My other complaint is that the writer has the word come out of EVERY character’s mouth. That’s not a good way to distinguish the characters through dialogue.
Again, the book is good and worth looking over this one flaw.
I use words depending on the novel, if it takes place back in the day, I use, ‘again the wall’, ‘what in tarnation’, ‘a might hungry’ sometimes I make words up, ‘uppities’ for upper class, I am a new writer and try and succeed to limit certain words, you may see the same word twice, but they’re few and far between. I am bad with comma’s and semi cols. I use the lingo for the particular time in history, but the same word popping up makes me think ,hey, I’ve got a chance at this writing thing.’ Most of my spelling errors are due to huge fingers and trying to follow fast thoughts.
Madeleine Calcutt says
If it is used in conversation ‘alright’ may be all right. I am rather fussy about spelling and grammar, and in schools in Australia they do not teach it. There is no spelling list to take home and learn each week for homework, nor are they taught correct sentence structure. The younger generation of teachers here do not know how to spell correctly nor how to write properly. My grandchildren’s spelling and written expression is dreadful, appearing similar to a 6 year old’s, and they are in secondary school! I think in this book the fact that ‘alright’ is repeated over and over again is a worse literary crime than ‘alright’ being incorrectly spelt.
I have had a similar pet peeve with “alot”. It is two words: a lot. It can be spelled as allot but, that has a different meaning. I have even been miffed by teachers who have the audacity to write alot on students’ papers.
Thank you for taking the time to remind everyone that alright is not all right. 🙂
Karina Brandt says
I’m also one of those who get my nickers in a knot when a book is released full of grammatical errors and misspellings.
English is not my first language, but I handle it pretty well.
My oppinion is, that in dialogues between two characters, it is okay with grammar-errors, and “spoken language” – but in those parts where its descriptional and not dialogue, I get my knickers in a knot when the writer doesn’t handle his or her own language’s grammar and spelling. I mean, if it is on his or her own website I really don’t care, but if it’s a book I have paid for, I do expect the content to be correctly edited.
Constance Matanawui says
Lovely post. But let me ask, was this book published traditionally or it was self-published? I’d be very surprise all right escaped all the editing! ^_^
Joan Curtis says
Nope, the book was not self-published. Indeed we writers can no longer count on traditional editors to catch our mistakes.