Jun 072006

As I was typing today at the office I once again wrote a sentence with the word alot, as in “He has alot of books”. I looked at it and knew it was wrong, and began to change it to allot, but hesitated. Which was right? I was about ready to call my dear wife (who would know) and then realized I could save myself the embarrassment (if she doesn’t read this post) by just searching on Google.

I, of course, found out that neither was correct.

  1. Allot is a verb that means to distribute, to assign a portion, or to divide.
    Example: The instructor allotted me 20 minutes to take the test.
    Example: They allotted six square feet per family.

  2. Alot means nothing because it is not a word in the English language and therefore should not to be used.

  3. A lot (two words) is an informal phrase meaning a large portion or large quantity of something. According to what I read it is proper to use “a lot” when describing non-countable quantities such as water, sand, ice, or time. The word “many” should be used when describing countable items such as hours, people, or books. I doubt I will be able to change my usage, “He has many books” does not carry the same meaning to me as “He has a lot of books”.
    Example: A lot of water has passed under the bridge.
    Example: I don’t have a lot of time to make amends.

Luckily I have a ‘search and replace’ plugin installed on this website and so was able to search for the two dozen occurrences of “allot” and “alot” on the various pages and replace them all with “a lot”. Now to see if I can put this in my mental rolodex of words I consistently misspell and must watch for.

Here’s a link to a great video On English Spelling… Dumb & Dummer (sp) that shows how dumb English spelling can be.

  21 Responses to “Allot vs. Alot vs. A Lot – Spelling”

  1. This explanation is missing something. There is actually a reason that “a lot” gets confused with “alot”. This is one of those situations where the written language isn’t quite aligned with spoken language.

    An example of something similar is “no one” versus “noone”. Even though “no one” is used as a single word in spoken language, it is written as two words in written English because you can’t push the two o’s together without it appearing like it would be pronounced like “noon”. This is only an issue because the spelling conventions dictate that two o’s together are pronounced as a different vowel sound and not pronounced as one o folllowing the other. For the similar word “someone”, the written spelling reflects how it is used. With “somebody” and “nobody” the spellings are consistent because the pronunciation issue doesn’t arise.

    Another indication that “a lot” is being used as a single entity is that you can’t change the “a” to “the” without the meaning changing.

    For example:

    He carried a lot of books. He carried a large amount of books.

    He carried the lot of books. He carried the large amount of books.

    The meaning of “large amount” is unchanged when you change the “a” to “the”, but the meaning of “lot” is altered.

    • Why was I taught that a lot was to mean property? And that word without the space was to mean anything else such as plenty! Why use 2 words to mean plenty? Not consistent! Source Dent’s speller! Also Oxford dictionary are they in error? I left school in 1969!

      • You’re just very confused and have those rules backwards. Just read this article. To allot is to distribute, dole out. A lot is a large amount. Anyone who has a lifetime of reading/writing behind him/her knows this backwards and forwards. Why should “a lot” be one word just because it has a similar meaning as “plenty”? By that token, “agreatdeal,” “alittle” and “atadbit” should be words. If you want to say plenty, say plenty. If you want a phrase like “a lot,” it’s two words. This is basic kindergarten literacy we’re talking about. Let’s not drop our national standard any lower than they already are.

  2. I really like your use of no-one as an example of how our language is not consistent. I cannot disagree with your logic but when I am writing I will continue to struggle because logical as it is to write it ‘alot’ it is incorrect.

  3. “a lot” may be used as a single entity in our language but that’s not a reason to write it as one word. Even though the two words must be used together to make meaning (as in your example for “a lot” v. “the lot”), grammatically it is still ‘a’ (article adjective) + lot (noun). Although compound words can be made of two nouns, I don’t think articles can meld into nouns to form compounds.

    On the someone & nobody example, I don’t think it is similar to this case. No body and nobody mean two different things, they are two different words. “There is no body in this room.” has a different nuance from “There is nobody in this room.” You would speak the two differently, also.

    I quick look at dictionary.com reveals also that someone, somebody, and nobody are all pronouns. These are the basic building blocks of the language that have their roots back before English would be recognizably English to us (pre-Chaucer). You can’t add pronouns to a language just as you can’t add article adjectives. However, ‘no one’ is a ‘word’ or phrase first used in the 16th century and is a noun. Hence, no one (no = adjective one = noun) is the grammatical equivalent to ‘a lot,’ but somebody and those other words are in a different class and can’t be used as comparisons.

    Our written language should not change based on how sloppy Americans think about and speak their words.

  4. Lot does not mean “large portion or large quantity” except in the idiom “a lot”, which, as the original post mentioned, if informal. Any argument as to grammatical nature of an idiom will be flawed before it began; Idioms are separate from grammatical rules by definition. So garbage in, garbage out, if you will.

    Back to the topic at hand, alot is also informal. (Though obviously many would suggest informal is to kind, and simply incorrect more accurate.) Alot lacks the acceptance that “a lot” enjoys, and “a lot” will save you the scorn of all but the most pedantic of word-watchers, but truth be told neither form is (or was until recently) held with high regard.

    I do find it interesting how strongly some hold on to the “correct” spelling of an informal phrase.

  5. I did find some interesting cousins of a lot:

    • a deal of trouble
    • he made a mint
    • a batch of letters

    none of these would we consider conjoining to be adeal or amint or abatch….

  6. Thank you! I am a student in an online nursing program, which is especially rewarding to students who write well.

    I cringe when I see “allot” misused. This happens frequently, even by instructors! Fortunately, we have chat rooms, and there I am able to post your diligent work, in hopes of supporting my peers in their search of higher education.

  7. I’d like to reference your June 7, 2006 Allot vs. Alot vs. A Lot – Spelling explanation in my office weekly newsletter. We feature a grammar section each week and this word usage issue was recently asked by one of our technical staff. Do I have your permission to reference your explanation and Web site? Thanks for your consideration. Elisa

    [Note: permission granted]

  8. I would like to thank you for your June 7, 2006 Allot vs. Alot vs. A Lot – Spelling explanation. I am currently attempting to write a book and I was having difficulty with alot vs a lot. It can be amazing sometimes just how much confusion a simple space can make. Thank you, Rebecca Campbell

  9. Allot is a word. Just because it isn’t in a dictionary doesn’t mean it isn’t a word. Words are used to communicate something. The word “alot” has it’s own meaning and purpose. It is used to mean something entirely different than “a lot”. Alot means “very much”. “a lot” means a group or a count. If it isn’t in the dictionary, that is because it hasn’t been put in one yet. That doesn’t invalidate the word. The statement “I like the new parking lot a lot” is an example of the word used properly according to the dictionary. It makes no sense, therefor is incorrect. It sounds like you are repeating yourself, “lot a lot”, and it just sounds stupid. In this context, the word lot means a group or a group of spaces. It doesn’t communicate the thought or idea accurately. “I like the new parking lot alot”. The meaning is “I like the parking lot very much” The word alot replaces the words very and much, just like a contraction does (the word “like” meaning “similar to”). This is the same reason we have contractions, to shorten two words, when speakng and writing. I also need to point out, that some ebonic words arose from slang and mispelling and misprounciation and were added to dictionaries, even though they are complete bastardizations of our language. I am in favor of making it a word of its own and spelling it “allot”. This would separate the word from “a lot” much better. I like spelling the word “allot” allot. Putting together the two words “all” and “lot” is closer to the meaning of “very much” than the word “alot”. In that sentance, I am saying I like the word “allot” (the word itself) “allot” (greatly, largely or very much) just like all lots are greater and bigger and larger than just one lot.

  10. I looked up the word allot in the American Heritage Dictionary. I knew it was a word and spelled correctly. Verb. “To distribute by lot”. “To give or assign”. I take it that it is used to compare how much, for example “I love her allot” would mean I like her so much, more than 1 unit, but as much as all the units in in a lot. Like all the stars in the sky, not just one, but the whole lot of them. Then the word allotment comes from te word allot. meaning portion or share. 1 portion or share of a lot that is comprised of many portions, shares, units etc.

    But then there is the word “lots” that means drawing lots. “The use of lots for selection”. Like when you take a lot of straws, and each person draws 1 straw from the lot.

    Then there is the word “lot”. When used in the context of meaning many meaning many. Noun. “4. A number of people or things”. “5. Often lots. A large amout or number”. So If I said “I love her a lot” I would be saying I love her “a large amount or number” in context. That is the use of the word we are looking for. But it would seem that the correct way to say that would be “I love her lots.” Even thought that could also mean you love her property, for example the lots a real estate agent showed you. It seems that the word “lot” has multiple meanings. Another meaning is like a parking lot. “A piece of land having fixed boundaries”. Yet another means”Ones fortune in life, fate”.

    I think the context of the sentance determines how to use the word. “A lot” can mean “many or much or very much”. I am not positive about the use of the word “allot” but it is a word, could have the same meaning as “a lot” ot “lots” in the right context. At the very least, another definition of the word should be added to it because it is mostly used for meaning “very much”.

    The more I think about it, the more the phrase “I love you lots” or “that’s lots of money” makes sense because in the strictest definition “lots” means “A large amout or number”. It’s maybe because the word “allot” is used lots that it sounds odd, and the word “lots” sounds like more than one lot or piece of property, because it sounds the same as the plural form of “lot”. It is even spelled the same. “Lots for Sale”. I understand the confusion. I would think that you would use the term “a lot” or the word “allot” depending on your meaning and the flow of the sentence. But for now, I think I will use the 2 word form “a lot” and maybe the word “lots” when I can. I suppose I could use the word “allot” and most would think maybe they are spelling it wrong. I wonder if “alot” comes up on spell check a lot? Or if it comes up allot?I sure would like to see the word allot used in several sentences. But, “alot” is not a word, it is the 2 words “A” and “Lot” shoved together.

  11. @James, Not sure if you are agreeing or disagreeing with the post. My point #1 shows Allot as a word and gives examples. In your first comment you say ‘alot’ is a word – but it is not. It is a misspelling of ‘a lot’ just like how often ‘your’ is a misspelling of ‘you’re’ – as in ‘your wrong’ a wrong that belongs to you instead of “you’re wrong” meaning ‘you are wrong’.

    It looks like in the second comment at the very end, you corrected yourself and say ‘alot’ is not a word. I think your two comments together are longer than my post :)

    My current spelling challenge is differentiating “it’s” and “its” since usually you add ‘apostrophe s’ to a word to make it possessive, but not in this case. I use my daughters suggestion to think about his, hers, its — none have an apostrophe.

  12. It should be a large number of books.

  13. “logical as it is to write it ‘alot’ it is incorrect”

    Yes, incorrect and no more logical than aton, apile, aheap, ashipload.

  14. thank you i believe that was the best way to explain it so that anyone with this question could read your comment without confusion (young,old,deaf,dyslexic!) i would say that unless you’re just plain dumb, from this moment on everyone should spell and use the word in the correct context…well i hope! thanks again!

  15. The discussion on alot appears to be related to how we perceive the nature of written language, whether it should be static and formal or more free flowing and flexible. I have and unfortunately I have no higher claim than personal opinion to justify my response used the term alot to show that my feelings would be measurable on a survey and not to be confused with a lot, as in a piece of land. For example I like my girlfriend alot, if I was taking a survey, she’s an eight or a nine. Not to be confused with some strange land fetish where my girlfriend is a half acre corner lot.

    Then again I believe we should use the standard smiley’s in written language and adopt the habits of Spanish speakers and place exclamation marks and question marks at the beginning of the sentence as well as the end to help clarify the meaning.

    All of this being said, communication is between the writer and the reader, spelling and punctuation are important parts of written communication. After reading this post I shall be more careful with whom I use “alot”.

  16. I spelled “a lot” as “alot” for years………….No, I’m not stupid.

  17. @Maria, I agree, you are not stupid for spelling it as one word. It sounds right but like a lot of things phonetic, it is wrong.

    I was thinking the other day that no one argues we should write abunch, afew, aton, anumber, agroup, etc. It is only because we don’t use ‘lot’ very often that we think of it differently.

  18. “No one” isn’t spoken as one word any more than any other two words that happen to be next to one another. Many words may sound as though they run together in spoken language; that does not mean they are actually being spoken as such. For example, when you say “next time,” it’s unlikely that you will distinctly pronounce both of the Ts, as “nexT Time”; more likely it will sound somthing like “nextime” but that doesn’t make it one word. “Nobody” is one word; no one two.

  19. Wow, I have to say that when I went looking for help to make sure I was spelling “a lot” correctly, using it to mean something was very special or to explain how thankful I was, I didn’t expect to find it to be such a hot button issue. I found several of the replies very interesting and informative. Not just because it helped resolve my issue, but also interesting in the reactions it seemed to stir up. Some of those replying, while they were helpful, seemed to also get very worked up regarding the confusion. Primarily over the issue/thoughts over “a lot” & the ideas behind the use of “a lot” to differentiate what they were trying to express. While I agree that it feels right to combine the two & not have the space in between. Weather or not we don’t with “a ton”, “a bit”, or any other words with the letter A before it is really inconsequential. Those words don’t have the contextual issue that makes for the confusion “a lot” presents. I understand how there could be confusion between talking about a designated piece of land or space & trying to explain a quantity or using it in place of “very much”, “a bunch”, etc. where you don’t with the other examples compared in some replies above.

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