Be careful! Alot vs. a lot

27 Feb

I was reminded of this one again over the weekend: I see it used over and over again, and sometimes by people and in places that surprise me. I’m not even sure how it started, as it seems rather odd and not really explicable. With many of the words I’m including in this little Be Aware series, you can see how the error has come about, as in the thought processes. But this one seems to be just about missing a space while typing and doing nothing about it. Or maybe people DO think it’s correct in some way: if you use it (or used it until you read this post), please explain, because it does, genuinely, leave me baffled.

So, the word is alot. As in, “I did alot of homework today”; “Alot of people believe it is correct to miss out this space”, “I know alot of you do this, but it doesn’t mean it’s correct”.

And it really shouldn’t be. The phrase, and correct usage, is a lot. “I did a lot of homework today”. A being the indefinite article and lot referring to many. It’s exactly the same construction as a little, a few, a bunch, a collection: two separate words, with a space in between. And that’s how, really, it should stay.

There is a word, allot, which means to give or apportion something to someone – “I will allot you a corner to watch while you are marshalling for the marathon”, and although it’s brought us the good old allotment, I really don’t think this has crept in and influenced our word under discussion today.

I think it’s one you are just going to have to train yourself out of, if you do tend to use it – put that space in, please!

Update: a fab person has created an ALOT MONSTER on their blog! Thanks to the commenters who mentioned this: I think it deserves a place here in the post, too!

Note: I’ve been asked if “a lot of” is suitable for academic writing. I would suggest avoiding it and replacing it with “many” (“many people feel this is correct”) or “a great deal of” (“a great deal of research went into Dexter’s Theorem but it remains unproved”) or another similar phrase.

Be careful! is a series of posts about words that are misused commonly – but really shouldn’t be. It’s not a new variant of meaning, it’s an error that gets duplicated as people see the word misused and copy it.

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Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Be careful, Errors, Language use, Writing


Tags: ,

5 responses to “Be careful! Alot vs. a lot

  1. Clare

    February 27, 2012 at 9:28 am

    • Liz at Libro

      February 27, 2012 at 9:44 am

      I hadn’t, but now I have – and I’ve popped a link in the main post so everyone can see it. Thank you!


  2. Gill Rose

    February 27, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Student essays give me “aswell” as well! Even less explicable.


    • Liz at Libro

      February 27, 2012 at 1:20 pm

      Ouch! That is not good. Are they learning this somewhere??


  3. Holmesfan

    March 1, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Alot is not a word I’ve ever come across but now, if I ever do, I’ll be able to picture that anonymous blogger’s delightful mixed alot. Great imagination.



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