My Grammar Bitch For the Day

Dear writers in the English language:

“Alright” is not a word. You’re looking for “all right.” For everyone confused by reading in the dictionary that “alright” is a “non-standard usage,” thus maybe okay to use, you should know that “non-standard usage” is polite lexicographer speak for “version used by illiterate hamster pokers,” and when you’re not looking, they all point and laugh at you. Yes, they do. I’ve seen them do it. And it was mean.

So: “All right” is all right. “Alright” is an abomination against all things good and pure and those who use it are on the side of the demons. The lameoid stanky demons, not the ones who dress well and smell like toasted cinnamon. They all use “all right.”

All right?


Thank you for your attention.

Update: Christian writes in the comments:

Roy Lichtenstein taunts you John. And all your moderation powers are useless against him!

Oh, really?

Take that, grammatically-incorrect mid-century pop art! The power of Photoshop compels you!

160 Comments on “My Grammar Bitch For the Day”

  1. Christian:

    Yes. The Who didn’t release an album worth a damn after it came out. Just goes to show.

    Also, everyone who uses the bastard variant of “all right” in this comment thread opens themselves up to the possibility I will correct their usage, in a wanton display of moderating abuse!

    You have been warned.

  2. I just had an argument with people who should know better about whether “a lot” was one word (alot) or two. I hate that bad, lazy writing and speaking is infiltrating proper language.

    My personal peeves are use of the word “quality” without a qualifier (high quality, poor quality, etc.) and needless use of the prefix “pre” as in “preinstalled.” Something is either installed or it is not.

  3. Irregardless of your passioned plea, I could care less weather or not your going to moderate my post. Alright? As for others who agree with you? Well, there just sucking up to the host.

  4. Maybe the Lichtenstein girl is talking to a man named Al and is saying “Oh, Al, right.” But Lichtenstein, fearing to offend by using a comma that might appear, numerically if not gramatically, to be a serial comma, left it out.

    And Scalzi killed him anyway.

  5. Irregardless, uh.. it’s ..

    Goddammit, I can’t think of a sentence to go with that particular abomination. Despite of the myriads of things I normally have to say. I’m literally steaming with frustration.

  6. Rob in Denver @ 8: Weather?? For shame. More mis-use of the English language.
    Whether or not you agree, the weather is nasty today.

  7. My personal peeve these days is the use of “disprespect” as a verb. People who do that should have an appointment with a shallow pit and a bag of quicklime.

  8. John alot of people agree with you irregardless of what they’ve been taught in school. To be an affective writer, you really need to study of the grammer properly. I must go do the needful, now it was overdue from long back.

  9. Note to self:

    David Neal now on the list for visitation by my secret ninja hordes.

    Sleep well, David Neal.

  10. David Neal,

    “I must go do the needful” The only other people I’ve seen use that are Indians at work. It drives me up the wall but I had no idea it had made it’s insidious way into more common usage.


    Can we also kill whoever coined “Reaching out to” as a business term?

  11. Tim,

    Yeah, true. I use meh and snarky all the time. But even granting that “Alright” is still offensive and should be fought on purely aesthetic grounds. It’s an -ugly- word.

  12. I like how language is always changing. But then I am notoriously mellow about such things.

    Let’s see what the experts have to say about this topic:

    By golly I think they agree with Mr. Scalzi.

  13. sng@22

    Do the needful is pretty rare and 75% of my employees are Indian. It isn’t in common usage, as far as I know.
    The guys who regularly switch between Hindi, Kannada and English are the ones most likely to use idioms translated directly into English, although technically “Do the needful” is an English idiom; they inherited that gem from the British Empire.

  14. Tim Akers:

    That’s not evolution, it’s devolution. I don’t want my language turning into protoplasmic puddle on my watch.

  15. John,

    What is your opinion of using the ‘alright’ deliberately? For example, when I am writing in my blog, I tend to use a lot of colloquial language that I would never use when writing an essay for my town paper or writing my novel.

    However, it seems to work with the casual tone I want for my blog.

    Am I still risking ridicule? Well, yes, of course, I am, but it is my blog and I like it that way. lol

    be well,

  16. John:

    I don’t want my language turning into protoplasmic puddle on my watch.

    I didn’t realize it was you who bought the english language when the Queen sold it. It’s good to know there’s a final authority to whom we can turn in time of need.

    And some people certainly need. Keep up the good work.

  17. David Neal@27,

    Very interesting. I hear it both from the Indians I work with who are here in Oregon and the ones in India. I had no idea about the origin though as none of my Brit friends use it. Thanks for the info.

  18. Dear writers in the English language

    So long as we’re grammarizing, shouldn’t that be:

    Dear writers of the English language?

  19. Highly annoying too: confusing your and you’re in writing. It’s not the same word, it’s not the same meaning, and if you’re using one for the other, it makes your sentence very, very bizarre.

  20. to Mary Dell @ #9

    Thanks. Now all my co-workers are giving me funny looks because I choked on my soda from laughing so hard.

  21. Hmmmm… I must say, as something as a conservative descriptivist, I believe “alright” is fine and dandy. I apply the test of “Does this add a useful new way of conveying information, take one away, or do nothing?” I reject anything in those two latter categories (a liberal descriptivist would reject only the middle, a hardline one refuses to apply tests.)

    However, in this case, as much as it may pain prescriptivists, I think alright does fall into that first category. In my experience reading informal use, “alright” describes meeting a basic standard of acceptability, whereas the stock phrase “all right” it descends from seems to imply a somewhat higher standard. Therefore, the mutated word provides a moderated meaning. Shading is new information, so it stands.

  22. Alright is a misspelling, pure and simple. It’s not a different word than all right. It’s not pronounced differently either. “Already” and “all ready” are pronounced the same as each other, but they mean different things and thus have reason to be spelled differently.

  23. Scott Janssens,

    The more general solution to the problem of webinar is to just put all suits up against the proverbial wall. That way we won’t have to deal with possible future outbreaks of similar stupidity.

  24. Some of us experience actual physical pain when we see such abominations as “alright.” Ditto the incorrect use of its/it’s, there/their/they’re, and of course the omission of the BELOVED SERIAL COMMA!

  25. Just out of curiosity, do you have objection to already? Or also? Or always? Do you object to the entire concept of two-word phrases being compressed, or just to this one case, or is there some sort of rule by which we can tell? Or will you do a separate post for every two-word combination? Or just for those that have been commonly used as one word for a hundred years?


  26. And Warren G. Harding should be made dead for needlessly coming up with the pernicious neologism that is being used all too often lately: “normalcy.”

    Oh – wait…

  27. Three things that John Scalzi hates are commenters acting like howler monkeys, the word ‘alright’, and serial commas.


  28. I am guessing that the use of “reaching out to” as a business term probably evolved from AT&T’s long-time slogan “Reach Out And Touch Someone.”

    And I am glad to see that there is someone who finds “alright” as tooth-grinding as the English and Journalism professors who impressed upon me quite vigorously, “It’s ‘all right,’ NOT ‘alright’!”

  29. You know, I almost submitted a question about your views on our society’s crumbling grammar and increased reliance on “txt-speak” (not sure if that’s an official term, or self-coined), but I didn’t. You know why? I thought I would come off as some sort of Grammar Nazi, and get a response along the lines of “Not everyone can speak or write with the eloquence of a Scalzi, or even that of a professional linguist; language is constantly evolving; stop being such a turd,” if a response was forthcoming at all. Now I wish I had.

    Either way, I know I’m safe. I do good at the speling and the grammer.

  30. Johnny Carruthers,

    I first heard it about a year ago and since then have heard it from multiple widely separated sources and that campaign hasn’t been on for many years. I suspect it’s for more recent origin. And it make me seriously wish I had force choke.

  31. Peter Ahlstrom@41:

    I think you can argue that ‘alright’ and ‘all right’ do have different meanings. A student can hand in a set of answers to a test which are alright (that is, they meet the basic standard required) although they are not all right.

    There’s no excuse for ‘alot’, though.

  32. You are fighting one mighty uphill battle, John. My copy of Word 2007 think that alright is all right, right?

  33. Well, the OED recognizes it, and what the OED recognizes…

    But I’ll join your coalition if you agree to jump on the “preserve the proper meaning of bemused” bandwagon with me.

  34. Excellent example, Another Andrew.

    There is definitely a world of difference between one student’s ‘alright’ and another’s, but ‘all right’ means 100% correct.

  35. It isn’t proper English NOW. However, as usage drives what we consider correct, and obviously “alright” is getting some pretty heavy use, it clearly will be correct someday.

    So, when I use it, that means I’m speaking the language of the future. I’m a Progressive. Ahead of the game. Maybe even a visionary.

  36. The way English is spoken and written in practice is the English language, by definition. English is mutable and changes. “Alright” is part of the English language now. Deal with it.

  37. So John, if a word is in use since before 1900, that’s still not long enough for it to be used?

    Similarly, I guess the following words from your post are also out of bounds:
    okay: created 1929
    lameoid: is this even a word?
    stanky: non-standard spelling of “stinky”

    As a science fiction writer, one would think you would embrace the evolution of language. What’s your opinion on these words? In each case, the date is when the word was created or modified to be used in a modern geeky manner. science fiction (1925)? shuttle (1930)? space station (1936)? dna (1944)? aliens (1944)? sci-fi (1955)? virtual (1959)? email (197?)? cyberspace (1982)? Internet (1986)? web (1994)?

    Of course, we can all be grammar nerds and pull apart your post sentence-by-sentence. After all, there’s more to grammar than vocabulary. (Quick quiz: what’s the definition of a run-on sentence?) :-)

    ( is alright by me.)

  38. How pathetic. “All right” was one of my daughter’s spelling words last week.

    She’s in fourth grade.

  39. @36 Monica…

    I write in English, English being the language in which I write.

    To write of English is to wax poetic on the delights and glories of nouns, verbs and prepositional phrases.

    And like Pablo @14, inappropriate use of apostrophes makes my head explode (metaphorically speaking, of course).

  40. Sam Greenfield:

    Bah. Just because people have been doing something wrong for over a century doesn’t somehow make it right. “Alright” sucked then and it sucks now.

    My problem with “alright” has nothing to do with its age — clearly I like me some neologisms (not to mention the occasional alternative grammatical structures). My problem with “alright” is that it increases the ugliness of the universe all to save two character spaces. Functionally, it’s indistinguishable from “all right”; esthetically, it’s a piece of crap.

    In any event, the “evolution of language” argument is specious crap, the equivalent of saying that people publicly urinating against the wall is the evolution of social mores. People have been publicly urinating against walls for a long time, too — doesn’t mean it’s something one should just accept.

    Jay Lake:

    If people would just do things right, I wouldn’t have to be prescriptivist!

  41. @32, John:

    Wordchange is plusgood. Goodthinkful party members do not read Johns crimethinkful oldspeak.

  42. My high school English teacher had note cards taped on either side of her blackboard (dating myself) – “all” on the left side and “right” on the right. She also did the same for a lot. I now cringe reading these two words used improperly.

  43. “That’s not evolution, it’s devolution. I don’t want my language turning into protoplasmic puddle on my watch.”

    Language is always changing. I’ve never understood standing at the gates of old language, like you’re beating back barbarian hordes. I mean, is tomorrow or around or amen somehow the wicked slop left after all the good people left the building and abandoned poor “to morrow” to the Hun? I mean, this isn’t exactly a new fight.

  44. Next time you feel a Grammar Bitch come on, can we discuss “every day” versus “everyday”? Please? Because that drives me craaaaaaaaazy.

  45. John, don’t you mean “aesthetically” rather than “esthetically?” Esthetic is just an an variant spelling of aesthetic, and it’s a terrible trade-off of one character for a much uglier spelling.

    Nothing like poking the bear. :-)

  46. Tim Akers:

    I have no problem with language changing, but I choose to believe it doesn’t have to change into something stupid and lame, for example, a language that accepts “alright.” I’m on the side of the angels, here.

    Sam Greenfield:

    I save “aesthetically” for special occasions. It’s like using the fine china, or airing the birthing video: It has to be just the right moment.

  47. I don’t think I’ve commented here before, but a grammar post is a sure way to get me to do so!

    My personal pet peeve is the modification of “unique”. Something is either unique or it isn’t. There is no such thing as “very unique”!

    I also work at a local TV news station which probably doesn’t help. The complete and utter crap that makes it on the air during newscasts makes me cringe. “Conversational” should not be the only motivation for how scripts are written!

  48. My worst cringe-evoking misuse of punctuation: The use of quotation marks for emphasis. For example, a sign that says “‘Free’ parking!” So, it’s not ACTUALLY free. It’s just “free”. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.


  49. Rob in Denver @ 66: Sorry – I realized that about 2 minutes after I posted (when I saw the also mis-used ‘there’ upon re-reading your post subsequent to reading David Neal’s @ 17). It’s just that mis-used words are one of my pet peeves (don’t even get me started on affect vs. effect) and I posted before it had time to sink in.

  50. Bets @ 70 – Okay, fine, @ everyone, really:

    Speaking of cringing, has anyone else noticed the increased usage of “I” in place of “me?” When I was a kid, the big grammar faux pas was to say something akin to “Jim and me went to the ballgame.” Immediately someone of authority and education (my uncle, in my case) would correct the sentence thusly: “Jim and *I* went to the ballgame.”
    But it seems to me, lately people have been overcompensating. Every time I hear someone say “Would you like to go to the dump and shoot rats with Kim and I?” or “This is a picture of Tobias and I playing snooker with the President of the Australian Rugby League” I die inside, just a little.

  51. Dave @79
    I still have to consciously make sure I follow that rule. Not sure where I was in third grade when it was covered, but it never really did sink in.

    If we’re broadening the discussion, I can’t tell you how many instances of incorrect lose/loose I’ve seen lately, both on and off the Internet.

  52. Lanna Lee Maheux-Quinn:

    No, it’s not wrong, although it’s possible using it so would get me in trouble.

  53. “Alright” is best suited for AIM conversations and blog posts (obviously not John’s, but someone more stream-of-consciousness, perhaps). It feels weird to type “all right” in an AIM window to me. I learned about “alright” in school and it always felt like a different, more casual variation on the word, but never seemed like an abomination.

    “Irregardless” is an abomination. “Alright” is a liberty.

  54. Two points:


    -If a professor of linguistics uses it, my vote is that it’s valid. I mean, really now.

    2: Scalzi, you should be ashamed of yourself. I don’t know if you’re making some kind of obscure point (about being a prescriptivist), or you’re just trolling, but come on now. Prescriptivism is the lowest form of literary criticism, and exposing the Whatever readers to it can do nothing but harm. My respect for you has dropped significantly.

    (3: Before you jump on me, remember that sarcasm is awesome)

  55. What, now you’re the language police? Stuff happens, people say whatever, other people understand, then they say whatever to other people who understand and say whatever to some other people. We wouldn’t understand, but by then we’ll be dead.

  56. Certainly people can use “alright” after I’m dead, Charles. But then, universal entropy will be that much further along, won’t it?

  57. Languages constantly grow and change. That all change is deterioration seems unlikely

  58. JJS,

    Clearly it’s not. In this case it is. It’s just an ugly ugly word. By contrast “meh” is a wonderful word and, for example, ya’ll is a highly useful word. It’s clearly something that should be taken on a case by case basis

  59. sng@91

    I’ve never been any farther south than Aneheim, but I use y’all with some regularity. Note, however, the correct location of the contraction.

    Meh, now that’s just a gutteral. Sure, I’ve said it, but I’d hate to see it become a part of the written English language.

    John, I’m curious…why do you think that alright looks so ugly to you? I’ll admit it feels a little lopsided, but I’m not sure I see the evil you deem so inherent in it.

    I’m much more the pedant over pronunciation…words can definitely sound ugly…

  60. Thank you for this. I thought I was alone. I’d like to add to the list of pet peeves the misuse of the word “incredulous” — as in, “I find it incredulous that George W. Bush was elected to a second term.” Personally, I find it incredible and I blame the credulous, but that’s not the same thing, eh?

  61. So what about people who use “tomorrow” in stead of the proper “to-morrow”?

    Or “show” rather than the classically approved “shew”, even?

  62. Jas@92,

    Oh I’m very much a northern boy myself and use it all the time. To be fair ya’ll is a somewhat recent variation that I favor, mostly, because I buy the “ya all” version of the etymology. Or at least that’s the usage that I find useful.

    I love meh. If only because a love of apathy fuels so much of my outlook on life and a single syllable to express that I just don’t care is very cool. Yes, that’s very subjective. :)

  63. I’m a fan of “y’all” myself and use it fairly regularly even though I’m a Wisconsonite who has been living in New England for the past few years.

    And can we have a moment for “it’s” vs. “its”?

  64. Re: Miko @ 94:

    Folks, it’s getting boring having to note repeatedly that my violent opposition to “alright” has nearly nothing to do with whether other words undergo change.

  65. I dunno… wiki says “alright” has been in use since 1893. That means it is about the same age as basketball and the diesel engine. Might be time to let this one go.

    I suggest directing your ire at those who use “aiiiiight” instead. Those people need a throat punch.

  66. Personally I would like to see a return to the original definition of the word ‘nice.’ (foolish, ignorant).

    It’s overuse in its current definition has destroyed it in my mind as a useful word, and the only way to revive it would be a return to its original meaning.

    Maybe we could use the original spelling as well, ‘nyce’, as a means of differentiation.

  67. jon29:

    That only means people have been engaging in horrifying abuse of the language for 115 years. Time to stop the madness.

  68. I’m smugly agreeing with you. At ShimmerIt’s close to an auto-reject if a manuscript contains “alright.”

    From our guidelines.

    We all have our issues.

    No matter what, do not use “alright.” It’s “all right.” Two words. Beth, our editor-in-chief, stops reading instantly when she sees “alright.”

    You have been warned.

  69. I can respect your views on this one, Scalzi, even if my aversion to the dreaded “alright” only goes as far as mild distaste (though it bothers me more than a little that my spell check hasn’t put a line of red dots under it). Everyone has that small handful of spelling and grammar rules the violation of which grates on their very soul. (Some people have rather large handfuls of them, or are so averse to errors that they experience an irresistible compulsion to correct any error that enters their strike zone. Luckily, the publishing industry has found a way to harness their condition for the good of all mankind).

    I hang around a bunch of science nerds, so my peeves all have to do with the incorrect use of prestige words that are supposed to make the user seem educated. Like utilize. I’ve never seen anyone employ that word in any context where use wouldn’t have worked just as well or better. Whom is another one. It’s an object, people. If the whom is a him, you’re good. If the whom is a he, yer doin’ it wrong.

  70. John, you’ve just become my new man-crush. Screw The Who: MY kids will be all right.

  71. Bigog! Sir Scalzi, me lykes that I schal fange at thy fust that ye haf frayst here.

    I presume this means that we should now be talking about the grene knyght as we laght at those that speke not the quenes English. As what’s ‘is name in the 14th century would say.

    Publishing books for a living, my eyes bleed on a daily basis. Postmodernism is an evil thing.

  72. Justmeon 10 Apr 2008 at 1:46 pm

    “and needless use of the prefix “pre” as in “preinstalled.” ”

    Ugh: Preplanning!

  73. I think there is a distinction to be made between changes to the meaning of certain words and the increasing acceptance of a common grammatical mistake.

    People who vigorously oppose the former are simply holding back the tides. During a linguistics class in college, I read an essay by a scholar bemoaning the loss of the distinction between “healthy” and “healthful” (not to mention the “misappropriation” of the word “gay” to mean homosexual). The essay actually included sarcastic illustrations of celery lifting weights, presumably to illustrate the point. My first reaction was to wonder whether the author had the impression that the entire language had been encased in carbonite shortly after he completed his first high school english class. I sincerely hope that particular scholar wasn’t around in the 80s when “bad” was used as slang for “good.” I suspect his head would have exploded.

    That said, people who stand firm against grammatical mistakes becoming so common that they are universally forgiven often seem more rational to me. Many other commenters have pointed out the almost universal misuse of “its” for “it’s” and vice versa. One of my personal pet peeves is when people accidentally use the word “of” in place of the word “have” because they are homonyms. Despite my deep and abiding love for Terry Pratchett, every time I see the phrase “would of” or “could of” in one of his early novels, I have to suppress the urge to beat his editor to death with rusty mining equipment.

    For me, “alright” falls into this second category.

  74. When I read a rant about proper usage or spelling of a word, I head straight to my dead-tree version of the OED, which has this to say about the word “alright”:

    “Alright, adv. Obs. 2-3 alriht, alrihtes [f. ALL adv. wholly, quite + rihte RIGHT.] Just exactly. c 1175 Lamb. Hom. 133 Alrihtes swa alse be wise toelie . . nimeo seme of twam bingen. c 1230 Ancr. R. 92 And alrihte so of be odre wittes.”

    For those who don’t normally peruse the Oxford English Dictionary, it says “alright” is indeed a word and it has been for a very long time. It means “just exactly” and its first two recorded instances in English are from 1175 and 1230. I left some of the accents out of the old spellings because I’m too lazy to search for the character codes.

    I’ve seen other rants about compound words starting with A that turned out to be not quite right, and I think it’s the “alot” for “a lot” usage that causes them. There is, at least according to the OED, no “alot” in English.

  75. re: #99…

    So I’m curious… Am I getting this visit because of my use of y’all or because I’m from Wisconsin? (and proud of it!)

  76. I hate to mention this, but ‘Alright?’, spelled thus, is a common (both in the sense of ubiquitous and lower-class) greeting in England and has appeared in many British novels.

    Perhaps it’s just something you colonists object to?
    /pompous brit

  77. Now I remember what the other A word someone found objectionable but it turned out to be the older spelling: awhile. “Awhile” is the original spelling, and “a while” is relatively recent, at least so saith the OED (all praise its name!).

  78. Huh. I guess I think of “alright” and “all right” in completely different terms. I think of “alright” as an adjective meaning “somewhat less than ‘good'” (e.g. “I’m alright, I just my LRWA grade back”) while “all right” is generally free-standing exclamation indicating assent or enthusiasm (e.g. “All right!”).

    Writing “I’m all right,” strikes me as either entirely too formal or something you’d say after a car crash or other mortally perilous event.

  79. Am I the only one who actually uses the two differently?

    “Alright” is the same as “okay” – above the neutral but not emphatically positive, as in “I’m doing alright” or “that play was alright.”

    “All right” literally means what it says – that all of whatever it is that’s under discussion is right, as in correct. In general, this is also the usage difference I’ve come across among other people. It’s very, very jarring to me to come across “are you all right?” when someone’s asking someone else if they’re okay after skinning a knee.

  80. Merry – I’ve seen some slight differentiation there, but “all right” in the fell-off-bike-road-rash-broken-bones sense is normal usage around here in my circles in California (to use a specific example from a coworker yesterday, who fortunately is going to recover).

    I see “alright” used colliqually. I use it myself when writing out colloquialisms – it’s important to differentiate between writing “normal correct” english, and writing what a character says. Characters of mine often say things that I don’t, and in particular that I don’t write. Written english is different that spoken. When you’re writing what some character says, often it is sort of a bastardization of how someone would really talk (localized and characterized for that individual and situation) and normal writing style. Transliterations or transcripts end up reading very roughly – fiction writing of character speaking ends up being more polished than that, but has to retain some of the actual spoken mannerisms to read like a conversation. Use of “wrong words” tactically in that situation often pays off well.

    Can be taken to extremes – Feersum Endjinn’s phonetic sections give me a literal headache (never been able to read it all the way through).

  81. If by some miracle we do produce more literate hamster pokers, will there be jobs for them?

  82. There are more hamsters than ever before, Bob. It’s really a growth industry.

  83. I might as well toss MY pet peeve on the heap.

    Phenomena is PLURAL. There’s no such thing as A phenomena. My teeth grind together every time I hear or read it used as a singular noun.

    Incidentally, how do you get italics in here? I feel crippled by their lack. All-caps just doesn’t cut it.

  84. Salmome@76 and Dave @79, you two have hit upon the worst and most common offenses. The misused quotation mark causes diarrhea, and the “and I” overcompensation plucks the wings right off the angels who get their wings whenever a person types “all right” correctly.

    Isn’t it true that in most or maybe even all cases, a person can just take out the “Jim and” and hear how it sounds?
    Who’s going to type or say “this is a picture of I ??

  85. I’ve learned something important from this post and thread. Never submit a story containing the abomination “alright” to any anthology, magazine or webzine being edited or guest-edited by John Scalzi.

  86. All right then. Can I throw this one into the fire?

    Since when has “different than” made any sense at all. As in “this baloney is different than the one we had last week”. Check whether you’ve used it recently, because I guarantee that you will have and it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. Things differ ‘from’ each other, and therefore ‘different from’ is the only acceptable usage.

    I even saw ‘different to’ the other day – even madder!

  87. Here! a Scalzi grammar-crash.

    Comment #38 of the Chad Orzel blog ‘JS should be ashamed of himself’ thread:

    “You may have a different relationship with your mother than I do”

    Not “than I do”, Esteemed One. Perhaps “from that which I do”. In fact you would need to say “from that which I do with mine” in order to clarify with whose mother you were having the relationship in question.

    It’s kind of a stones/glass houses thing. But you’re right about All right.

  88. My Office just released a series of very important press releases (responding to a series of highly visible negative articles about our competence and ethics). They are not only badly written to the level of incomprehensible, they have run-on sentences and spelling mistakes.

    I wish I could dope slap at work.

  89. In other news, I’m delighted that a thread about “all right” has gotten 130+ comments.

  90. Mr. Scalzi,

    1. “All right” is in its death throes. Do you know anyone who pronounces it as two words? Exactly.

    2. Hyphenating “grammatically-incorrect” is grammatically incorrect.

    That’s it,
    A devoted reader.

  91. Well, John, (trying not to take it personally that you ignored my question) after reading all the comments, and checking the OED myself, I have decided that ‘alright’ is a word unto itself, and has been since oh, 1175-ish. Works for me! This was a great entry; fun to see all the closet entymologists come out and play!

    be well,

  92. Speezle@136,

    would it be grammatically incorrect to hyphenate “grammatically-incorrect” since it’s describing the pop art?

    wouldn’t that be the same as saying, “the 12-year-old girl,” versus the 12 year old?

    just asking, is all…

  93. Speezle@#136: Hyphenating “gramatically-incorrect” is gramatically correct in the above instance, because it is used as a modifier and precedes that which it modifies.

    “gramatically-incorrect pop art”


    “pop art which is gramatically incorrect”

    are both correct.

  94. Whether to hyphenate “grammatically incorrect” is a style issue, not a grammar issue. Because there’s no way “grammatically” can modify a noun, there’s no possibility of confusion as there might be with my high-school buddies. (Some of whom also merited the hyphenless version, but best not to go there.)

    The AP and Chicago style guides both say never to use a hyphen following an adverb ending in -ly or after the word “very.” Other style guides may differ.

  95. While you’re at it, can we just forget about tonite too? And what burns me up is that all these blogs have added spell check and they think that the proper spelling of okay is OK. AHHHGGG!!!!

    Don’t get me started on “a lot”.

    We used to joke in sophomore English that our lame teacher only taught us two things all year – how to write a five paragraph essay and that a lot is two words. I’ve never been able to decide if I’m glad she taught us that or not because it’s been a bane in my side, having to live with half the population writing it alot.

  96. I’ve never done this before; please ignore, and I apologize for the inconvenience.


  97. Andrew Hackard @#141: Okay, you ROCK. I didn’t know the “-ly” anti-hypen rule. And you are quite right about the distinction between gramatically correct and stylistically correct. I was raised, incidentally, with the Chicago guide, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve drifted toward apostasy.

  98. Prescriptive grammar is the biggest waste of time on the planet. If all the prescriptive grammarians in the world got together and spent all the time they normally spent shaking their fists at whippersnappers and crying themselves to sleep every time they saw a split infinitive and instead did something useful with their time, the world would be an incalculably better place.

    If Scalzi wants to get upset about ‘alright’, he only does himself a disservice. His life is worse for it because the modern standard is ‘alright’ and it’s not changing – his position will only cause him sadness and never change anything. It’s plainly one word, and the orthography represents that. Which isn’t to say that orthography is even close to systematically or unambiguously representing natural language, but it is clearly an argument in favor of preserving an already status quo spelling convention. And the OED has nothing to do with established conventions, by the way. Every human language in the history of human language was conventionalized without the help of crotchety embittered grammarians or perverse oppressive institutions.

    This is why I hate old people.

    a real linguist

  99. I’m hardly prescriptivist. People are perfectly free to use “alright” if they like. If, you know, they want to look like illiterate hamster pokers. Which I am led to believe a growing number of people do. Good for them! Be who you are, I always say. The hamsters might disagree, but they should have thought of that at least one karmic cycle ago, shouldn’t’ve they.

    Meanwhile, while I suspect Mr. Klecha here has his tongue in cheek, I’ve noted some people seem genuinely surprised/disappointed concerning my “alright” jihad here. Well, given that the entry itself features the phrases “illiterate hamster pokers” and “lameoid stanky demons” as well as wanton Photoshoppery of pop art classics, and my comments in the thread are generally of the same somewhat overblown tenor, folks who are wetting themselves about the horrors of prescriptivism might consider that they’re probably reading a little too much into my personal repugnance of “alright,” and might also consider taking a refreshing cold shower and/or getting a fucking life. Please, think of the hamsters.

    I mean, hell. If I were a prescriptivist, I’d use the serial comma.

  100. “People are perfectly free to use “alright” if they like.”

    This is a generous concession on your part, and I thank you humbly for it. But prescriptivism doesn’t mean you require others to act as you do. It includes making any moral statement like the many above. And yes I understand you’re being facetious, but there’s really nothing funny about prescriptivism. It feeds racism and ignorant elitism. It makes people feel dumb when they have no good reason to. And you may not be guilty of such things yourself but you certainly give those who are support and feed their egos. So pardon me if I feel the need to rebut; language, after all, is my life.

    And yes, classy move; the high ground in any blog argument is to claim light-heartedness and drop the “get a life” bomb. I seem to have been excluded from the scope of that epithet, but I’ll respond anyway. This being the internet I think it’s well within my and anyone else’s rights to take five minutes out of our lives to tell you you’re a blowhard and a prescriptivist when you act like one (even with hamsters and photoshoppery and everything else), without being told to “get a fucking life.”

    Go Maroons.

  101. Peter, we’ve got a nice cold shower waiting for you. And if this is your life, it’s time to level up, my friend.

    Also, inasmuch as my degree is in philosophy of language, from the very same august institution you appear to reference, your “I’m a real lingust” foot-stompery strikes me as, well, cute.

    Also also, as for “rights,” you have none here. Please to read the comment policy if you’re confused about that.

  102. No seriously. I’m a linguist. It’s my job. I get paid to do it. I won’t deny it’s beneath me to argue with prescriptivists but we all have our regrettable behavior. And I direct these things more towards the hordes of idiots who take prescriptivism quite seriously. If hating and ranting against them merits me a cold shower, I will take one happily.

  103. Hahaha. Philosophy of language. Now that’s cute. I repeat: I’m a real linguist. Philosophers are generally pretentious tools, and so are UC undergrads, so considered me unsurprised. Linguistics is science. Prescriptivism is dumb. You don’t need a bachelor’s from an august institution to know either.

  104. “And I direct these things more towards the hordes of idiots who take prescriptivism quite seriously.”

    Yes, in my country we call them copy editors. And given that my manuscripts are at their mercy, I’m not inclined to call them idiots. However, judicious use of “STET” solves most conflicts there easily enough.

    That said, your antipathy for prescriptivism appears to be your hammer, and you seem to be looking for a nail, and I’m pretty sure my dislike of “alright” isn’t a good fit for that. I’m going to chalk this confusion up to your possible unfamiliarity with my mock-authoritarian style when it comes to writing decrees in general.

    Also, since I assume you are related to Dave Klecha, I’m cutting you some slack. That said, you’re coming across as a bit of a tiresome and humorless dick, and I want you to reconfigure your attitude. I’m having a shitty week, and my tolerance levels are low. So settle down or fuck off.

  105. Prescriptivism != copy-editing. One involves altering the spelling of something you yourself (or your publishing house) is producing. The other one involves being a douche and telling people (authors, bloggers, other editors, etc) what they should do. If every presciptivist I ran into was a copy-editor, there sure would be a lot more copy-editors out there than I thought.

  106. You’re underestimating the scope of the copy editor’s job, which in my experience involves rather substantially more than catching spelling errors (which says as much about the mess I make as anything else, I fully admit). And enough copy editors who I know personally get annoyed that the writers they have to work with just can’t do things right. Does it make them prescriptivists? Possibly not, but if they ruled the world, look out.

  107. I find the usage “at this point in time” quite common and annoying, and has been mentioned previously, “very unique” is incorrect.

    I don’t have a problem with alright though, but then I thought alot was a word too.

  108. I find this interesting it has helped me to realize my mistakes with this word. Thank you. It is all too often we use a word unwittingly because it has penetrated our vocabulary.

    I did come here from a Google search to find thoughts on the misuse of the word hun. Maybe you could do something on that in the near future.