Editing Tip #19

The Wonderful World of Words, Pt. 1:

Meaning & Existence ~

wordsThere are certain words in the English language that are used in casual conversation that cannot be found in the dictionary (or are only listed as ‘slang’ or ‘common usage’).  When our characters speak and think to themselves, these words are fair game.  However, your prose should not contain them.  Today we will look at:

All right vs. Alright

and

Void vs. Devoid

Alright and Devoid are not ‘real’ words.  They are contrivances of known words and ideas that have been generally accepted through their over-use and misuse.

The proper way is to print out two words – all right.  Sloppiness and frequent use of the incorrect spelling ‘alright’ leads the average person to believe that they have spelled the word correctly, but they haven’t.  It’s like a lot vs. alot.  Alot is not a word, neither is alright.  Don’t be tempted to squish two words together in order to make one new one – these words are not compound words (take two different words, stick them together and make a completely new idea/word: straw vs. berry = strawberry).

Void is the correct term to use when you mean, “empty of, space, the absence of, no longer existing, etc.”  Devoid was created by the common populous as a way of ramping up the word ‘void’ and making it somehow mean a higher degree of the same thing.  Devoid is bad grammar.  Use the word void instead.

Anyone with a background in English Literature or someone who simply loved English class has an internal cringe-meter when words like these cross our paths.  If you want your writing to be taken seriously by reviews who have a background in English Language Studies and the Literary Arts, edit these errors out of your writing and show the world which is the right word to use.

For those of you used to working with devoid and alright, you might bring to mind the word ‘altogether.’  Essentially ‘all’ and ‘together’ were combined some 20 odd years ago and when I was a child attending school the older teachers would harp on the fact that the proper spelling was simply “all together” – just as I am doing now.  Perhaps some day altogether and alright will no longer affect personal cringe-meters, but the fact that it still is and neither of these words is truly legitimate according to renowned sources… you will need to edit your prose accordingly.

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5 replies

  1. According to my dictionary (American Heritage) devoid is indeed a word.meaning “completely lacking.” Its roots go back to Middle English, French and ultimately Latin. While it is true that both void and devoid as adjectives mean the same, i.e. empty, void is also a noun meaning an empty space, a vacuum. I believe I am all right on this matter.

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    • The acceptance of devoid is relatively recent and many editors and publishing houses still tend to abide by the ‘old rule’ so to speak. Just 2 years ago I took a grammar course through York University in Toronto that was linked with a publishing course they offered. The professor teaching the class was also the Chair of the department – he stressed this point to no end and made sure we realized this was not just ‘a Canadian thing.’ My goal is simply to relay what I have learned and the public at large can take from it what they will.

      Thanks for your input, Thomas 🙂

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      • What I meant to say with “relatively recent” is that it had fallen out of usage a long time ago and was deemed one of those words of ‘excess’ and so, struck from use. With it’s more recent resurgence, editors and publishers still tend to avoid using it…

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  2. Devoid is a real word in multiple English dictionaries, and dates back to 1350 to 1400 A.D., hardly a recent construction.
    However, your use of it’s as a possessive in your reply above, where you wrote “With it’s more recent resurgence,” is gramattically incorrect and makes readers flinch.

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    • While I thank you for your opinion on the matter, Watson, I don’t think it’s appropriate to critique our comments for grammarcy. Yes, I made a fast typing error with the apostrophe, but that doesn’t make my comment any less valid. My professor noted its prior useage but focused on how it dropped out of formal writing for the reason I originally stated. Just because it was once used, and several noted dictionaries cite it as a word in existence from 1350 to 1400 A.D. doesn’t make my point any less relevant. It stopped being used and now people are using it again more often but the publishing industry still hasn’t welcomed it back with open arms.

      I just wanted to let everyone know.

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