Thursday, October 16, 2014

Alright Already?


First, a  quick followup to my last post about pre-orders, and Windswept Danger.
Since someone near and dear to me was recently diagnosed with MS, I'm donating ALL royalties from pre-orders of the book to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Pre-order price of 99 cents, a $3 savings, is good through Oct 26th. You can find buy links here.

And now, on to your regularly scheduled posting.

Language, as everything else, is constantly changing. But what constitutes a legitimate change? When does something that was previously "wrong" become acceptable?

Back in the Dark Ages, when I was in school, we were taught that already was an adverb that had to do with time. "When I got to the mall (although there were no malls back in those Dark Ages of my school years), Mary was already there."

This was not to be confused with all ready, which means that everyone was prepared, or someone was completely prepared.

Likewise, there's altogether and all together, which have different meanings as well. Altogether means wholly, or entirely, whereas all together means everyone was in a group. (This omits the idiomatic use of altogether, meaning nude, and I'm not going there with this group.)

And, perhaps because already is a word, it was easy to get confused and carry that over to words like "alot" instead of the correct a lot. Another major No No, resulting in Miss Cook leaving big red marks on one's paper, was to use the word alright. Again, our teachers insisted, there was no such word.

But recently, I've been running across "alright" in published books. And, although I hate to have to qualify this, because publishing is changing, too, I'm talking "traditionally" published, not indie published. For some reason, people assume that what they read in traditionally published books is "right" and indie books are full of mistakes. But since reading alright makes my teeth crawl, I had to go look it up.

What I found in my online dictionary:
alright - adverb
1. all right.
Can be confused (see usage note)
Usage note
The form alright as a one-word spelling of the phrase all right in all of its senses probably arose by analogy with such words as already and altogether. Although alright is a common spelling in written dialogue and in other types of informal writing, all right is used in more formal, edited writing.

So, it would appear that alright is slowly gaining acceptance. In fact, as I write this post, there are no red squiggles under the word alright. At what point do we take what used to be wrong and consider it correct? After all, new words are cropping up all the time. Google is a verb now, isn't it? And will readers understand what we mean if a character "MacGyvers" something together to get out of a tight spot? The word might not be in standard dictionaries yet, but it's out there in some of the slang ones. However, I'll say this. I'll use MacGyver long before you'll catch me using alright in my writing. I do not want Miss Cook turning over in her grave.


What about you? How receptive are you to change when it's not something new, but something that contradicts what you were taught? Do you have any hangups about the language? Any words you confuse?

Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery 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, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

12 comments :

  1. Good post, Terry, and I must admit that I don't like the dumbing down of language, written or spoken. What I see frequently in professional postings online is "for a sneak peak at...." And there are always those participles that folks leave dangling.

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    1. Maryann, I think the 'sneak peak' is often the result of fast fingers even though the writer knows better ... but then, it should be caught in proofing if it's for a book. I've caught a few author friends making that mistake on quick tweets or FB posts, and they do know better.

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  2. New words are made up every day and if used long enough and loud enough, they get added. I do appreciate biting wit, clever insults, hilarious references, and inventive terms, though. Our language would be boring without them. I do, however, cling to the Oxford comma with no apologies.

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    1. I love new words. My dad was always making them up, and they made very good sense. Yes, language evolves. Sometimes, though, if it's an issue that goes against what I've been taught, I still cringe. And I'm totally on board with the Oxford comma.

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  3. I'm in favour of alright, only avoiding it because it might irk editors. To me, "the numbers are alright" means they are satisfactory, while "the numbers are all right" means every number is correct. Distinct meanings. Distinct words.

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    1. Timothygywn - I can't handle alright, although it's working its way into acceptability. I blame it on Miss Cook. If I were writing your sentence, I'd find a writearound ... probably using 'satisfactory' instead. Or, "all correct" instead of "all right" because used as an adverb, all right also means "satisfactory."

      Isn't language fun!

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  4. Good post, Terry. I see alright and alot a lot. They always stop me reading. Just because a lot of people use a word doesn't make it right. I don't mind a new word. I do mind a bastardization of an old word. And I'm on board with the Oxford comma. I find a series confusing without it.

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  5. I'm willing to say that those words might be right eventually, but I'm not ready! There's that classic example in favor of its use: "I would like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand and God".

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  6. Yes to the Oxford comma--always. As for the language, we've come a long way from Old English, haven't we? And the evolution of our vocabulary continues.

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    1. I supposed what was once wrong can now be right, but to me, that's not quite the same as language evolving. Not quite.

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  7. I have a whole flock of pet peeves, but the one that irritates me most is the general confusion of lie and lay among both speakers and writers, and presumably many editors. (because a loud one would upset the dog, who is--as usual--LYING behind my rolling chair.)

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    Replies
    1. My kids had this handy grammar guide when they were in elementary school, and I still refer to it for some of those 'confusing' usages.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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