You may have seen the Grammarly cartoon floating around Facebook that proclaims, "Alot is not a word." And if you've seen it, you've seen the comments from people to whom poor English gives physical pain.

Yes, they fall upon the thorns of life, they bleed, we get that. The problem is that a lot, possessing a spelling, a pronunciation, and a widely understood meaning, is in fact a word. It is merely a word that does not fall within the compass of standard written English. (Written English, mind you. When people speak it, you can't tell which spelling they would use.)


To one such troubled soul, I pointed out this:

"alot n., adv. slang var. of A LOT"

Webster's New World English Dictionary, fifth edition

Her response was "As I eluded, the New World English Dictionary, 5th edition is a very progressive dictionary. It's not highly regarded by many."*

So we go from a lot is not a word to Webster's New World Dictionary is not a dictionary. (Do you hear that tosh, Steve Kleinedler?)

Katherine Barber, always more patient and civil than I am, explains in some detail in a post at Wordlady why we have to understand alot as a word, where it comes from, and why English acts that way. You should have a look, if your interest runs to being informed rather than merely expressing opinion.

What appears to be at the root of all the pain and suffering and hooting and hollering caused by alot, alright,** irregardless, and the like is the widespread but erroneous belief that standard written English is one true and correct English, all slang and other dialects being accumulations of corruptions and errors.

Rather than sympathize with the suffering that non-standard usages cause these people, we might better consider their impoverishment. They have circumscribed themselves, unable to appreciate the richness and ebullience of the many dialects of English. They are, as Pope says, "content to dwell in decencies forever." The Dictionary of American Regional English, with its multitude of imaginative and pungent non-standard expressions must be a closed volume to them. The strain—the strain of having to be correct all the time in a language like English with all those treacherous homonyms*** and complications of subject-verb and pronoun agreement—must take a terrible toll on them.

And there is so little we can do to help them, since they steadfastly reject authority, argument, and evidence.

Terribly, terribly sad.

*No, I am not going to be snarky about her English usage. I shall try to be better than that.

**Microsoft Word didn't flag alright as a spelling error. Hmm.

***I said I was going to try not to be snarky.