Common Errors in Written English: a Lot

How to Allot Blame If You Write Alot and Not a Lot

by Owen Fourie

Jim Carrey says it in Dumb and Dumber, but how do you write it? Some who have the relevant clip on You Tube, write, “I like it a lot.” Others write, “I like it alot.” Which is correct: “a lot” or “alot”?

Alot

Alot is not an English word, so it should not be written anywhere or be accepted as correct.

You will find the town of Alot in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India, but as a term in the English language it has no place.

Lot

Before looking at the correct term, let’s consider the word lot, which has various uses, as seen in these examples:

  • The boys decided to choose their captain by lot. Whoever drew the shortest of the three pieces of string would be their choice.

  • Although the loss of her house was a devastating blow, she accepted it as her lot.

  • My great-grandfather’s candlesticks have been placed in the auction lot for antique lamps.

  • It’s no use complaining about the storm; you might as well throw in your lot with us and wait for it to pass and then we’ll all be able to continue our hike.

  • When the government applied the new tax laws, the farmers became an angry lot.

  • The new supermarket has a large parking lot.

A lot

If you need to describe a large quantity of something, the term to use is “a lot.”

It is important to know that this is a term for informal usage. Other expressions are preferred in formal writing and formal speech.

In formal usage, instead of

A lot of people attended the mayoral reception,” or

Lots of people attended the mayoral reception,”

you would write,

Seven hundred people attended the mayoral reception,” or

A great many attended the mayoral reception.”

Nevertheless, here are some examples using “a lot.”

  • After carelessly scratching his mother’s car with his bicycle, he was in a lot of trouble.

  • She is feeling a lot better now that her boyfriend has returned from his tour of duty.

  • He is a real extrovert, and he has a lot of friends.

  • She has a lot to do before she can complete her project.

  • His parents may have a lot of money, but his allowance is quite meager.

Allot

There is a word that sounds like the two words a lot, and it is mentioned here for this reason, not that it is confused with a lot.

This word is allot, and it is a verb meaning to assign or to allocate.

  • The judges will allot ten minutes to each speaker in the debate.

  • In the Homestead Act of 1862, each settler was allotted 160 acres of land.

  • The parents had set aside the money for a new house, but it seems now that they will allot it to their children’s increased college expenses.

I like it a lot

Now that you know you should write a lot, you should allot blame only to yourself if you write alot. After all, even the automatic spelling checker on your computer does not like it a lot.

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How familiar are you with the confusion of a lot and alot? Are there other points like this for which you would like some clarification? Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.

Here are more articles to help you with English words, grammar, and essay writing.

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