In the English language, we love to combine our words but then become confused as to how to use them, especially if the meaning changes slightly. We often find this with words that involve all, such as all together and altogether; all ready and already; and all right and alright.

Here are a few tips to help keep them straight:

A good way to remember when to use all together or altogether is that all together is used when the items that are grouped remain separate whereas altogether indicates the blending of the items, such as seen in the words themselves.

All together means “in unison,” “gathered in one place.” Use this pair of words when several things or people are brought into close proximity.

Examples:

  • The workers met all together in the cafeteria.
  • The choir sang all together.

Altogether means “entirely,” “completely.” If you can substitute either of these words, use altogether.

Examples:

  • Mix the ingredients altogether. (Mix the ingredients completely.)
  • This book is altogether different from the first one in the series. (This book is entirely different from the first one in the series.)

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All ready means something is “completely prepared.” If you can use only the word “ready,” then “all ready” is correct.

Examples:

  • Dinner is all ready. (Dinner is completely prepared. Dinner is ready.)
  • My speech is all ready for the convention. (My speech is ready.)

Already has to do with time. This word means “by now,” “before now,” or “prior to a specified time.”

Examples:

  • I arrived at the theater by eight but the play already started.
  • She wanted another cookie but already brushed her teeth.

You can see the difference when used in the same sentence: Jack was all ready for work but his train already came.

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All right and alright are interchangeable with some restrictions. Alright is generally accepted, but some sources continue to state that the word is a misspelling of all right. You may want to use the full form in academic or more conservative writings.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

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