Over 10 years ago, I sat in a Journalism editing course as a freshman. My instructor told us that “all right” is always written as two words—always. I tucked that bit of knowledge away and used it as I developed my editing skills in various discourses. As a university instructor, I would write “all right” and “alright” on the board in my composition classes and ask my students to explain the difference. I would hear a variety of answers, although few were ever correct.
I would explain that the standard in formal writing was still “all right” (since the dictionaries I consulted had “alright” listed as a colloquial version of the word). But, today when I searched a few online dictionaries, “alright” showed up as an adverb, with no note of nonstandard usage. That doesn’t mean I will be using it any time soon, but it might mean I will tolerate it a bit more when I see it used in such a way.
I frequently told my students that language is changing; we are changing it. Spelling will change, definitions will expand, and new rules established. A friend of mine once asked why I attempted to use proper grammar when people just don’t speak that way. But, my question for him was, “Does language evolve because of ignorance and laziness or because it reflects a change in people and culture?” Should we simply concede to incorrect usage because that is “how people speak”?
As instructional designers and training consultants, we are constantly working with language, so we must pay attention to how language is evolving, especially in a culture infiltrated and effected by chatting and texting. And, it might not be such a bad thing to use good grammar as we teach everything else.
I don’t consider myself a grammar snob, and I don’t correct people when they speak (unless they ask me a grammar question), but I really believe the beauty of language is that a person can use it to communicate better and more clearly.
For those of you who can’t help but find grammar mistakes in the world around you, I have included a few blogs that reflect just how important it is use good grammar and correct usage as we design instruction. I hope they provide a bit of humor as well.
The Grammar Vandal
The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks
I’m also including the question and answer page from The Chicago Manual of Style site. Those of you who enjoy why and how language is used will appreciate it.