On The Cutting Edge
Our language evolves, but at glacial speeds. Also, usage varies depending on where we live. I think if you're pursuing a traditional writing path (by that I mean, not trying to break ALL the rules, like omitting all punctuation or capitalization), you should consider what you put on the page.
One pet peeve: The use of "alright" to mean "all right." I was taught that there's really no such word as "alright", at least in standard usage. And although I'm finding a few places that say it's becoming an "acceptable" alternative to all right, I'm not convinced it's smart to use it. Not until those glaciers show up in your neighborhood.
Perhaps the confusion arises because we're used to using already as well as all ready. However, these have totally different meanings. If we have a group of people and we're trying to gather everyone together to leave on a trip, we might say, "Are we all ready?" meaning, "Is everyone ready to go?"
On the other hand, "already" means previously. "I've already eaten dinner."
Or maybe it's because we've seen "all together" and "altogether." However these words also have different meanings. "All together" means everyone at the same time. "We went to the movies all together."
"Altogether" means "entirely", as in: "I'm altogether fed up with grading grammar papers."
But back to alright. According to The American Heritage Dictionary, and the Macmillan Dictionary, "alright" hasn't made it into acceptable usage yet. In other references, where it is listed as a 'real' word, the definition is always given as "all right." Unlike the above examples, we're not talking about words/phrases with two separate meanings. We're looking at two usages meaning the same thing. And that means we're actually looking at alternative spellings.
And another one that sets my teeth on edge: leaving off the "to be" infinitive. I first noticed this when I was transcribing reports for a temp job, and it seemed to be a regional thing. Where I would say, "The dishes need to be washed," some will say, "The dishes need washed." Yet I'm starting to see it in published fiction. I did read one book where the character called attention to the usage, joking about it, and explaining it was because of where she was from, but if it just sits there, it jumps off the page.
Should you use these sorts of things? I'd say avoid them. Wherever possible, the most common, more universal usage is the smarter one to use. As long as you have readers who think it's wrong, they're going to think less of you as a writer. Because, ultimately, it's going to pull a reader out of the story, and anything that pulls a reader out of the story is "wrong, wrong, wrong."
What are some of the words that you see used improperly?
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Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists. To see all her books, visit her Web site. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.
Posted by Maryann Miller who is so glad that Terry cleared up this business about alright.