Get it right, all right vs. alright

During my edits of novels, nonfiction books, academic papers and business documents, I frequently see the same pairs of words confused. Among them is all right and alright.

While alright increasingly appears in writing, most grammarians would agree that alright is all wrong. Alright generally is considered nonstandard, and its use probably arises from the notion that all right/alright follows similar rules to “all ready/already” or “all together/altogether.”

The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style (7), does list alright as okay to use when it means “satisfactory,” indicating that all right means “accurate.” Hmm … Sure, satisfactory and accurate have different definitions, but what’s the difference between if you write, “The cost estimates are satisfactory” or the “The cost estimates are accurate”? To be alright (satisfactory), the cost estimates would have to be all right (accurate). Or why not just write “The cost estimates are satisfactory” rather than “The cost estimates are alright” if you want to indicate they are not excellent … “satisfactory” certainly would be more specific (or accurate!).

Or would saying they’re satisfactory be alright?

Final verdict: Always use all right, never use alright.