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The Written Word October 2008

Homonyms Part 2:  Those All-confusing Phrases


What is the difference between “already” and “all ready”?  Should one use “altogether” or “all together?” Is it ever OK to say “alright,” or should it be “all right?” 


Taking them in order already means previously.  All ready simply means prepared.



My friends were already at the train station.

I had already told her three times to go home.

She was already in the pool when I arrived.

I have already put the suitcases in the car.


We packed our bags, and were all ready to go.

I was all ready to yell at him, but he laughed.

“Are you all ready?” he asked, looking from one man to another.


Altogether means completely, overall, everything considered. When used as a noun, it means naked.  All together refers to a group.



I found him altogether too fussy for my taste.

She swam in the altogether. (She skinny-dipped.)

He tried to find the trail, altogether baffled by the falling snow.

One, two three … All together now: Happy birthday!

All together, there will be six of us attending the lecture.

When he found the fox kits, they were all together in a new den.


All right and Alright have confused people for centuries. Both phrases have their supporters, although All right seems to be the preferred usage.  In fact, there are those who say, "If it's not 'all right' it's all wrong."


 Either phrase seems to be acceptable in dialogue:


“How was dinner, honey?” she asked.

“Alright.”  [So-so, or passable]


All right means satisfactory, safe, good, and well – all the good things.  It is also be used to show resignation or agreement.



He’s an all right guy.  [Trustworthy and pleasant]

Everything is going to be all right.

If it’s all right with you, we’ll leave on Monday.

She was sick, but she’s all right now.

All right, let’s come up with a plan.

“Oh, all right,” he said, "I'll take out the rubbish."


Next month, we'll look at avoiding suddenly and related scene spoilers



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