Column: Much ado about a lot


Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t understand or enjoy much of the Shakespeare assigned to me in high school. I hope that doesn’t ruin my reputation with my fellow word nerds. On the other hand, I love how Shakespeare invented words that are still common in our modern lexicon, including wormhole, swagger and skim milk. Although word scholars now debate how many words he actually came up with, Shakespeare certainly knew a lot of words.

That reminds me of a word duo that often gets mismatched and misused: a lot and allot. First, I want to get something out of the way and settled so we can get on with our lives: alot is not a word (unless you capitalize it and are referring to the town in India named Alot). The non-word “alot” often gets used instead of “a lot,” which means a large amount or large number. People mistakenly write things like “I know alot about robot movies.” In this sentence, the person should have written “a lot.”

Allot is a verb that means to give out, distribute or divide. It doesn’t get used as much as its word cousin a lot, but it has its merits. Make sure to allot the same amount of Skittles to each child unless you want a riot on your hands. In this case, an even allotment can save you from a disastrous toddler turf war.

I will say, we use the phrase “a lot” far too often. It’s vague and doesn’t add much pizzazz to your writing or speaking. Instead, consider words and phrases like a plenitude, several, heaps, an abundance and scads. As an adjective, “a lot” is a bland nothingburger (check your dictionary). The more inspiring words are like the little-used exotic spices in your spice rack that add variety and interest to your bowl of alphabet soup. By expanding your vocabulary, you make Shakespeare’s ghost proud.

In conclusion, alot isn’t a word. Allot means to give out. A lot means a large amount, and it’s kind of boring. I challenge you to use something more interesting instead. You have a myriad of options.