On the SAT essay, is it acceptable to use the word alright?
The short answer is: No. Alright is all wrong. Use the two-word form, all right.
However, this requires a bit of explanation. Alright is now widely used, particularly in informal settings such as blogs, emails, text messages, instant messages, tweets, and even some classrooms. Many well-known writers, including James Joyce and Langston Hughes, have used it in literature. It is ubiquitous in written dialog and, sadly, in student papers.
In fact, according to Merriam-Webster Online, the single word alright has been in use since 1887.
The two-word phrase all right was used more than five hundred years ago, spelled al right by Chaucer around the year 1385. The word fell out of favor, then returned to common usage later, when Percy Bysshe Shelley employed it in Scenes from Goethe’s Faust.
In any case, all right is the much older form. It remains the standard for use in formal writing today. Alright should be used, if at all, only in informal writing.
Whenever you write, it is important to keep your audience in mind. When you compose your SAT essay, you are writing for a group of scorers who are, for the most part, English teachers and grammarians. I myself look askance at alright in formal – and even informal – writing. Your SAT scorer is likely to do the same. Students who don’t understand the difference between formal and informal writing risk losing crucial points once that number two pencil hits the paper.
Why take chances? Stick to formal writing on the SAT. All right?
For more information on studying for the SAT, read How to Succeed with SAT Test Preparation