The Writer’s Toolbox – It’s All Right

All right? All right! It’s time to tackle that one little word that comes with all the problems. Well, not all of them, but many, and It’s found in words and phrases like all right and alright, all together and altogether, all ready and already, and all and all of. This week and next, It’s all about all.

Enough already! Let’s get started.

All Right Is Two Words

Whether You’re talking about a state of being or giving an exclamation or agreeing with someone in conversation, It’s always two words: all right. Always. Alright is incorrect, though It’s such a frequent error that it looks perfectly normal.

You can remember the rule this way: How right? All right. Both sentences have two words.

Example A: All right! we’re going to Canada’s Wonderland!

Example B: I was sick yesterday, but today I feel all right.

Incorrect Example C: Alright, I’ll sign up.

Corrected Example C: All right, I’ll sign up.

All Together, Now!

Another somewhat related pair of words is all together and altogether. Unlike all right and alright, both words here are valid spellings, but they mean different things.

Altogether is an adverb and means “in total” or “completely.”

Example D: That session was altogether a waste of time. Here, the speaker is saying that the session was totally, completely a waste of time, so “altogether” is correct.

All together?two words?means “everyone/everything together” or “all of us/them/you together.” If you can substitute “everyone” or “everything” or “all of us/them/you” for “all,” then use “all together.”

Example E: Let’s sing the anthem all together. Here, “everyone” or “all of us” can replace “all,” so we use “all together.”

Now for a few more confusing examples:

Incorrect Example F: We attended that session altogether. This is incorrect because the sentence is trying to say that multiple people attended the session?”all of us”?together. Therefore, “all together” is the correct choice, not “altogether.”

Corrected Example F: We attended that session all together.

Example G: We avoided that session altogether. This sentence seems similar, but the meaning is different. It is correct because the speaker is saying that the group totally or completely?”altogether”?avoided the session. Because the meaning is not in the sense of “everyone together,” the use of “altogether” is appropriate.

In next week’s Toolbox we’ll look at two more phrase pairs that are commonly confused: already and all ready and all and all of. In the meantime, a quick summary. Alright is not a word; use all right. Altogether should only be used when you mean “totally” or “completely.” If You’re talking about a grouping, use all together instead.

Happy writing!

Christina M. Frey is a book editor, literary coach, and lover of great writing. For more tips and techniques for your toolbox, follow her on Twitter (@turntopage2) or visit her blog.