Thursday, May 27, 2010

English teacher: how to use "a lot"
and "all right"


Boy, Thursdays seem to roll around quickly! Time for me to put on my English teacher's hat.





Today I'd like to begin a discussion of words that can present special challenges to writers. There are some words that we use often and easily in conversation; they just seem to roll off our tongues. So we use them in our writing, too, but they don't roll off our fingertips quite so easily.


A prime example of this is the term "a lot," meaning a large amount or often. We use this term a lot, don't we? (Sorry. I couldn't resist.) It really is a useful term. You should know that it is TWO words: a lot. It's not "alot." That's not a word. Now, "allot" is a word; it's a verb meaning "to divide into portions," but it doesn't give us much trouble.

If you're talking and someone is listening, they'll never know if you say "alot" or "a lot." But if you're writing, you should know that the correct way to write this expression is "a lot." Two separate words.

The same thing is true for the expression "all right." This is the correct spelling of the term, although you may often see "alright."

Now the question of the day: does it matter? Well, that's really for you to decide. I'll state my thinking on grammar once again: grammar is simply a tool for using language, and the purpose of language is communication. If you write "alot" or "alright," your readers are probably still going to understand what you're saying. So I wouldn't put these errors at the top of the list of importance. But if you're writing something that you need to make sure is just right, you should know the correct spelling. When I learn the proper use of a word, I like to make a habit of using it correctly, even in settings where it may not seem to matter. After all, it takes no more time to write words correctly than to write them incorrectly!

As always, please let me know if you have a specific question about English grammar. I'll be happy to help if I can!

13 comments:

Under Her Wings said...

Keep up the good tutoring, Richella. Proper writing is a lost art for the most part. Blogs are a wonderful way to practice--and learn!

Stacey said...

So funny that you should mention alot and alright this week. I consider myself pretty good at grammar but I'm aware that I misuse those two constantly!

Kenzie said...

This is such an important lesson especially in the world of texting! Everything is shortened and sometimes I think text language translates into our every day writing. Thank you for grammar lessons, they remind me how important proper grammar is!

Traci@ Beneath My Heart said...

Great rules! I see "a lot" misspelled all the time. I have always spelled it as two words but have sometimes questioned myself because everyone else keeps spelling it as one word. :)
I always think of it this way... we don't write "alittle" so why would we write "alot"? Thanks for the reminder of how to spell "all right". I know I have messed that one up before.
I need help with punctuation! I'm thinking I've made a ton of mistakes in this comment. :)
Thanks for helping us out!

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

Well, that is good to know b/c I have been using it wrong alot. ;) ;) ;) heehee...I really didn't know though. This was helpful. :)

Gail Griner Golden said...

Richella, what a blessing you are. Thank you for taking the time to teach these lessons. I love them and find them very helpful. I'm passing them on to my daughter who is challenged in English grammar. Keeping them short is a big plus for busy people. I'm a writer, and hope you'll stop by my blog for a visit.
Thanks again.

Julia said...

Thank you for the lesson! I definitely agree with you-- why would you NOT use the correct word/spelling if you know it? Anything else just makes you seem less intelligent.

A few other ideas for you--I often see writers confuse "then" and "than," as well as using "I'd," "I've" and "I would've" incorrectly.

And even while I write this comment I am reminded that I don't always know the correct way to combine punctuation such as "this," or "this", :)

Thanks for your useful and informative blogs!

Melissa said...

I have mastered "a lot." However, I didn't realize "alright" was incorrect. I learned something new! Thank you!

Jill said...

Richella, I would love it if you would write a post regarding the use of "I" and "me" in a sentence. So often I hear people say "I" when they should say "me". I remember learning about this in school, but I'm sure you could explain it much better (than I). I really enjoy your tutoring sessions:-)!

Jessica said...

I enjoy your grammer lessons. ;-)My personal pet peeve is when people use "their" and "there" incorrectly. And other things like that. ha

Melanie said...

Thanks for the lessons. They have been fun and informative.

Anonymous said...

My English teacher taught us the difference between all right and alright is to remember all right...all wrong. Works for me!

kanishk said...

Blogs are a wonderful way to practice--and learn!
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