I admit it: writers can be picky creatures. We see language in much the same way a carpenter sees his or her prized circular saw: a tool we wield to accomplish challenging tasks with a certain level of quality.

That’s why writers cringe … or even scream … when they encounter misuses of words. Every writer I know has his or her pet peeves. I have a collection of several pets, but one that really gets me riled up is the non-word, alot. Yes, I said non-word, because the ever-growing English language still does not recognize “alot” as a word. Nor should it.

In most cases, the people who use it mean to say “a lot,” as in “Gee, Scott sure has a lot of pet peeves.” You’ll notice that “a lot” is actually two words with a space between them. They’re a way of referring to many things or one small piece of real estate.

There is a single word that’s similar to the non-word “a lot.” That word is “allot,” but it has its own meaning. When you distribute something on an equal or prorated basis, you are “allotting” it. Sometimes, you can even use both in the same sentence, as in, “Pet peeves should be allotted equally, but it seems that I have a lot more than you do.”