Self-Editing 101: “Alright” is Always “Alwrong”

If you don’t write “alwrong” for “all wrong”, then why do you write “alright” for “all right”?

pencil
Taking a pencil to your story is more important than taking another seminar to improve your writing.

As an English teacher and an avid reader, my Inner Editor rarely shuts down.

Sometimes, I’m reading something and Inner Editor will shout out, “Oh, that’s just so wrong!” I.E. has the words out of my mouth before my Inner Self-Control can stop them, and then others around me look at me in strange and condemning ways.

Sometimes, I.E. is operating at full capacity, as when I’m grading essays and research papers, readying another writer’s draft, or scrounging through my own writing.

Sometimes, I.E. is at half capacity, as when I’m reading a published book or article and come across poor grammar, bad spelling, confused words, et cetera.

Sometimes, I.E. is shut down way low, as when I’m reading my local newspaper’s articles, emails from my principal or friends, or notes from parents. The newspaper articles, emails, and notes are so poorly constructed, poorly spelled, and lacking strong word choice that I’ve learned to ignore the lack of proper writing skills and just try to decode message hidden among the bad grammar, misspellings, poor word choices contained within the newspaper articles, emails, or notes for a bit of understanding.

Once while traveling by plane, I had brought along a book that came highly recommended by another writer because I had a couple of hours between flights. Once in the terminal, I parked my arse on the hard plastic chair, opened the book, and began reading earnestly.

I.E. began screaming “all most” from the first sentence. I don’t remember the book (I tend to repress bad memories), but I do remember the terrible editing.

Not remembering the story, plot, characters, setting, and themes of a work but remembering the terrible editing tells you what kind of impression this novel, this story, made on me.

Actually, I was cursing first the writer who wrote the errors and then double cursing the editor who let the errors slip past his red pen.

What I remember most about the book (which I stopped reading after page 32) is the use of the word “alright”.

Not once was this phrase used correctly in this supposedly well-written book. Not in dialogue, not in inner thought, not in narrative. Not once.

“All right” was used “alwrong” throughout the pages I read.

As with “alot”, “alright” doesn’t exist in the English language except in student essays, principal’s emails, parents’ notes, and our local newspapers’ articles, as well as stories poorly edited by so-called editors who should know better.

So how did all right become alright?

Alright as a one-word spelling of the phrase all right 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.

And short stories, non-fiction articles, and novels are supposed to be “formal, edited writing”.

The problem is that we have writers and editors who were never taught that “alright” is all wrong and were allowed to get away with such poor writing skills in elementary school, high school, college, and grad school and are ignorant of their blundering.

So, poorly edited books are thrust upon a reading public with such words as “alright” replete throughout the story.

In “alhonesty”, the vast majority of the reading public probably doesn’t know the difference any way, so why should writers and editors care?

I don’t know the difference between the chemical make-up of aspirin and cyanide, but I certainly hope the manufacturer who does know the difference doesn’t get lazy or tired or distracted while texting his friend one day and confuse the two drugs, alright?.

If we don’t write “alwrong” for “all wrong”, then why do we write “alright” for “all right”?

Because we’re lazy, we’re ignorant of the error, and we’ve got editors who don’t know any better and, like those errant teachers of our school days, allow us to get away with poor mechanics.

Do a manuscript word find. How many “alright” errors are highlighted, including dialogue? (Exclude the dialectal “awright”).

Although, “alright” will almost certainly slip past the young editor right out of college or grad school where he wasn’t corrected on his poor writing skills, that doesn’t mean the writer, the true wordsmith and craftsman, must tolerate poor writing skill.s

See you on the bookshelves.

Larry Mike Garmon

1 Comment

  1. So good to find an article that answers my question to Margo Dill at Editor 911 on Facebook. I’m reading The Help, a beautiful novel about the South. The author uses “alright” throughout, and it drives me nuts. I wish she had stuck with the dialect and used “awright.” That word would be much more acceptable, especially to folks like me (old retired English teachers). Please don’t have your feelings hurt, but shouldn’t you change your title to “alright” instead of “alight”? It’s very much difficult to edit our own writing. I love your article! Thanks!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s