Grammar Bite #19 – Use of ‘a lot’

15 March 2012


You’ll frequently see people using the word ‘alot’ (1 word) – which is the incorrect way to write ‘a lot’ (2 words). For example:

û  Henry bought alot of chocolate.

û  We’ve got alot of books.


‘A lot’ is an informal expression that means ‘a large amount’ or ‘many’. (I bet you’d never write ‘alargeamount’, would you?)


The computer knows better!

As I wrote this article, the computer kept correcting the spelling of ‘alot’. So I had to keep ‘un-correcting’ it. 


  I wonder, if the computer auto-corrects this common mistake, why is it still so common?


The correction

Do not write ‘alot’ as one word. It’s wrong.


The correct form is two words: ‘a lot’. 

ü  Henry bought a lot of chocolate.

ü  We’ve got a lot of books.


A worse mistake

I read something online recently where the writer had used the word ‘allot’ when they should have used ‘a lot’. Really big mistake!


‘Allot’ is completely different. It means to divide or distribute by portions. For example:

ü  Each speaker at the conference will be allotted 30 minutes.

ü  The children were allotted equal portions of their father’s estate.


Pay attention to red and green underlining

When you’ve finished your final draft of a document, glance through it to look for words underlined in red, which indicates spelling mistakes. Remember: The spell check tool will only find misspelled words – not the wrong word. So if you write ‘allot’ when you should write ‘a lot’, the computer will NOT underline ‘allot’, since it’s spelled correctly – even though it’s the wrong word.


Also check for green underlining, which indicates a grammar mistake. Warning: The grammar check tool of Microsoft Word sometimes misses grammar mistakes – and sometimes underlines stuff that’s actually correct! So it’s not very reliable, but at least it's a starting place.


If you’re in doubt, check your grammar by other methods. Here are a few online resources:

§  Grammar Girl

§ Grammar & Composition

§  Google (Example: Type ‘alot’ in the search box and you’ll get links to articles that explain why it’s incorrect.)


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