Word Confusion: All Together versus Altogether

Posted September 29, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Yep, it’s yet another word (and a homonym) that has confused the heck out of me. When do you use all together instead of altogether?

From going through the definitions and examples as well as C.S. Lakin’s tip towards the bottom of the table, I’d say that all together is more physical while altogether (if we ignore the nude possibilities) is more abstract, more adverbial in that it does more to qualify or modify an adjective, verb, another adverb, or a word group.

One way… …or Another
We’re in the all together…

I feel like I need a comma and a now and no the to create a “we’re in, all together now” and then we’ll be off singing or dancing or…who knows.

We’re in the altogether…

Woohoo, we’re all nekkid!

Let’s all get together…

Well, other than that “get” interruption, it sounds as if we’ll be going off to do something.

Let’s altogether get…

Mmmm, no, “let’s completely?” or “let’s all in”…no, no, this isn’t working.

Are we all together?

Is everyone here?

Are we altogether?

Well, if we use Lakin’s tip, this sentence could translate as:

  • Are we completely…yeah, I could see this…
    • Are we completely agreed on this?
    • Are we all in for the night?
    • Are we all in agreement?
    • Are we completely tired?
    • Are we all in this together?

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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All Together Altogether
Credit to: Merriam-Webster; Apple Dictionary.com; Skillin, 448

“Festival of the Winds 2010” by Newtown Grafitti from Sydney, Australia (All together now Uploaded by clusternote) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

At the Festival of Winds 2010, the kites were sent up all together.

A nude couple wrapped around each other in front of an empty fireplace

“Love in Wiesbaden” by Jacob Appelbaum from San Francisco, USA is licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Yep, they’re in the altogether.

Part of Grammar:
Adverb Phrase Adverb 1; Noun 2

All in one place or in a group

All at once

Entirely, completely

In total, completely, entirely, wholly

Including everything or everyone

In total

Taking everything into consideration

On the whole

All included

All counted

All told

All things considered

Used with nude

They came in all together.

It was good to have a group of friends all together.

There are six bedrooms all together.

Our state governments spend all together about two billion dollars a year.
All together, the purges left hardly a single leader of the 1917 Revolution alive.

That is a different matter altogether.

Altogether his paintings aren’t worth spit.

The opening was, altogether, a success.

After climbing Pikes Peak, the hikers were altogether exhausted.

They were altogether in accord.

She posed in the altogether.

C.S. Lakin at Live Write Thrive has a useful tip on figuring out when to use which: “If you can substitute completely or all in for altogether, you’ve got the right word. But if you can rewrite the sentence using all together separately, then that’s the way to go.”
History of the Word:
1 13th century from Middle English al + togedere.

2 1893.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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Pinterest Photo Credits

“Before the Deluge” by Cornelis van Haarlem (1615), via Wikimedia Commons.

This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional work of art — an oil on panel (RKDimages, Art-work number 40692). It is 65.5 × 107.5 cm (25.8 × 42.3 in) and located in the National Museum in Warsaw, although not currently on view. It is in the public domain and was photographed by pl.pinterest.com.