Karen’s Conundrum – It’s ALL about …

KarenConSMAre you all ready for an altogether new edition of Karen’s Conundrum? It’s probably already apparent where I’m going to be taking this, but allow me to put it all together in this post that all told will hopefully cure my all-consuming obsession with a few commonly misused words, one of which has proven to be an all-round troublemaker.

So, are you all in? All right then, let’s get this party started with an all-time favorite …

All together versus altogether

The two-word phrase “all together” simply means collectively.

We can drown out the voices in our heads if we shout all together.

“Altogether” is an adverb meaning entirely, completely, all told.

Seeking psychiatric help for the voices in our heads is a different thing altogether.

(Side note: All told (adverb):  with everything or everyone taken into account: in all, altogether, all counted.  Interesting tidbit – the word “tell” means to count, “told” being the past tense. Hence, all told meaning all counted. Did you know that that’s why those people behind the counter at the bank who take or give you money are called tellers? No? Yeah, me neither.  Go figure.)

            “A short story is a different thing altogether – a short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger.”

~Stephen King

Just threw that extra “altogether” quote in there for good measure … and because I found it a creepily thought-provoking one. While you dwell on the meaning of that quote, allow me to move on to the next round …

All ready versus already

I have never had an issue with these two, but the more I edit manuscripts, the more I come across these misused. I am pretty certain that it’s just an oversight; not confusion between which is correct. But since we’re here, let’s quickly break them down …

“All ready” means completely prepared. It could actually be a three-word phrase, “all ready to …”

            “We are all ready to be savage in some cause. The difference between a good man and a bad one is the choice of the cause.”

~ William James

“Already” is an adverb, meaning either (1) by a specified time, or (2) so soon.

            “I already killed you once today, what does it take to teach some people?”

~Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere

And now, the best for last—the one that tried its hardest to pull me back down into the rabbit hole in search of the Definitive Answer. But unlike the past two posts—ah, I was so naïve—this time I ran, ran as fast as I could from that hole. I hid behind the closest tree I could find and peered cautiously around it in order to get a glimpse of the kerfuffle that exists between …

All right versus alright

I won’t hesitate to tell you that I started writing this post with the firm resolve that “alright is not all right.” I went directly to my source, my bible: Merriam-Webster. Surely it would back me up and this skirmish would be short-lived and my victory would be clear. And once again … NOT!

All right (adjective): fairly good; acceptable or agreeable; suitable or appropriate.

All right (adverb): fairly well; well enough; beyond doubt.

Alright (adverb or adjective): all right. (ARE YOU KIDDING ME?)

At Merriam-Webster’s website, this is what they had to say: “Although the spelling alright is nearly as old as all right, some critics have insisted alright is all wrong. Nevertheless it has its defenders and its users, who perhaps have been influenced by analogy with altogether and already. It is less frequent than all right but remains common especially in informal writing. It is quite common in fictional dialogue and is sometimes found in more formal writing.”

Upon further investigation, my conviction that alright is not a word was supported, with the stipulation that I should say alright is not an “accepted form,” however it is gaining in popularity and someday it will gain the same status as all right. Experts recommend that should you choose to use alright, make sure it is as an adverb, and use all right as an adjectival phrase. Seems as though Merriam-Webster wants to sit firmly on the fence and label it both an adverb and an adjective.

SO WHAT TO DO? <sigh> Once again, that’s completely up to you. My personal opinion is I’d treat alright just as I have suggested you treat OK. Assess what effect you want the appearance of your words to have. Alright and OK immediately make me think of relaxed, everyday conversation. I have added alright to my list of questions I ask writers before I work on their manuscripts, and it gets added to their manuscript’s style sheet so that the next person in line after me isn’t asking the same questions. (By the way, if I’m not advised otherwise, only all right is okay with me.)

As I brush a tear of frustration from my cheek, I turn and walk away from the safety of the tree I’ve been hiding behind. I have begun to realize that for every conundrum there exists a Pandora’s box just waiting to be opened.

“Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.”

~C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair


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