Do I like it? Not alot (Mistake #41)

I’m a reasonable man. Pay taxes. Smile at checkout lady. Drop coins in charity boxes. Hold door open for elderlies. Buy my rounds. Check, check, check, check, and check.

So why, when I’m presented with the following, do I get the fleeting urge to thumb out my eyeballs and stir fry them over a fierce heat?

a/ ‘alot’
b/ ‘abit’
c/ ‘aswell’

Mostly it’s alot, of course – I see a lot of alots – but there’s also quite a bit of abit going on among aspiring writers, and far too much aswell as well.

Look, don’t feel foolish if you’re guilty of one or more of the above, for I’ve known some highly intelligent ‘alotters’, at least, in my time. But I can’t help wondering why I see these specific errors so often – and I don’t see illicit liaisons between the indefinite article and other words (alittle, afraction, atutorwhoislosinghismarbles) or other inappropriate combinations with ‘as’ (asever, asalways, asmadasahatter).

Might it be because a little word like ‘abit’ just looks, you know, cuter than ‘a bit’? Or because we appear to have all-righted ‘alright’ so – what the hell – the Germans do it all the time – let’s jam a few more words together? Do these mistakes endure because even those who get them right don’t bother to correct those who get them wrong – perhaps for fear of being accused of pedantry since, you know, it’s only a missing space – and that’s left many with the false assumption that either version is acceptable?

Don’t know. Maybe one day abitting, alotting and aswelling will be allowed and perfectly alright, but for now they’re… alwrong. Sorry.

My tip? Word’s Autocorrect function (find it under Tools). Mine came with the alot-to-a-lot correction already entered (which irked mildly during the preparation of this post), but you can enter your other personal misdemeanours and they’ll be corrected as you type. (Autocorrect is dead handy for touch-typing mistakes you regularly make too.)

Further, if this post has made you a bit insecure about your general one-word-or-two-word understanding, then Mistake No. 23 might be of interest as well.

And once you’ve read that, I would recommend you take your leave from me and point your browser towards this post on the Hyperbole and a Half blog, which I tweeted some months ago, but which you may have missed if you don’t follow me on Twitter (which you probably should at least consider joining, a point well made a few days ago by my colleague Simon Whaley here).

It’s very funny, and if enough of us click, and if enough of us ask nicely, perhaps Allie Brosh will come up with zoological examples of the abit and the aswell too?

Comments 14

  • Two of my pet hates are thankyou and incase. I see incase alot (!) on motorways in particular where there's maintenance going on. Makes me want to scream when ALL of the warning signs have it spelled this way.

  • I wonder if there's sometimes confusion with the word 'allot' which is, of course areal word.

  • Thanks for the mention about my blog post.

    Although 'alright' is apparently acceptable, I will change it to two words in any of my student's work. I cite my dictionaries and also the Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors, which state that it isn't.

    But MS Word's dictionary allows it, which is why I think it has become more prevalent. If only MS Word had used a proper dictionary when it was first launched, our language skills generally might have been of a higher standard now rather than the 'alright' they are now 😉

  • I fear we are fighting a losing battle, Alex! Because I find that quite often if you draw people's attention to their spelling/grammatical errors they don't believe you and think you are strange!

    So I tend to mutter under my breath a lot when I spy such errors. I was surprised that some school teachers have difficulty with words such as thank you – putting it as one word. One spelled the word beach (as in sand) as beech too. If the teachers can't get it right, then what hope of the kids got?

    Julie xx

  • Incase! Yes, I've seen that one and had forgotten of it – typically as 'just incase', about which the only good thing you can say of it is that it wasn't rendered as 'justin case'…

  • I Love reading your blog and I have awarded you a stylish Blogger award check it out at http://www.littlewillowthinking.blogspot.com

  • Interesting post, Alex.
    My particular pet hate is alright which is creeping more and more into British English. As for alot and abit, it happens to me, but usually due to my crap typing. I now have them on autocorrect.

  • Thanks David. Yeah, not sure where I stand with 'alright'. I think I'm inclined to let it pass in speech or casual / humorous writing – but not in formal writing.

    That's when used as a synonym for 'OK'. When the words 'all' and 'right' adjoin in another expression, it's definitely not acceptable at all.

  • Oh dear! I use alot and aswell as one word simply because I thought they were. I also, until more recently believed it was Thankyou and now I manage to stop and go back. I will have to try and remember to do the same for the others.

  • WhyDon'tWeJustTakeALeafOutOfComputerProgrammingLanguagesIdeasAndGiveUpOnSpacesBetweenWordsAltogetherAndJustWriteInCamelCase?

    Altogether. There's a long-accepted one which presumably started as all together?

  • Ha – that didn't work, Blogger has refused to wrap my text! Doh.

  • I feel rather silly for not knowing that 'alright' wasn't all right, or is it alright in that context? Help! This aspiring writer lark is more complicated than I thought..

  • Thanks for extra comments, all. But please don't feel silly! That's the last thing I want people to take from this blog. I want us to be positive about error – after all, I make enough myself – even though by its nature it can sometimes be difficult. Besides, I'm not 100% sure where we are with 'alright', and, as womag points out, altogether' has been welcomed into the linguistic fold, so it may only be a matter of time before others are.

  • Thanks Alex – no more feeling silly. I'll just take this opportunity to thank you for writing such a useful blog for people like me who love to write but have a lot to learn about getting it right.

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