Allot, A Lot, and Alot

Commonly Confused Words

Cake divided into eight slices
Each guest was alloted an equal portion of cake. David Malan/Getty Images

Once we eliminate alot (a common misspelling of a lot), we can focus on the difference between the homophones allot and a lot.

Definitions

The verb allot means to give or allow a share or portion of something.

A lot means a large amount. (A lot is often a less formal way of saying many or much).

Always spell a lot as two words, not one. (Alot is regarded as a misspelling of a lot.) See Avoid These 10 Words in Formal Writing.

Also see the usage notes below.

Examples

  • "[E]very college has its own application, so you have to allot a certain amount of time for every application you have to complete."
    (Alison Cooper Chisolm and Anna Ivey, How to Prepare a Standout College Application, 2013)
  • When I was younger, my mother and I moved around a lot, so I changed schools all the time.
  • "He had a soft southern accent and he laughed a lot, disclosing teeth too white and too even to be anything but 1950 vintage Sears and Roebuck dentures."
    (Stephen King, The Shining, 1977)
  • "She leads him past a hall and staircase into a cool room with a high ceiling and silver wallpaper, a piano, watercolors of scenery, [and] a lot of sets of books in a recessed bookcase."
    (John Updike, Rabbit, Run, 1960)

Usage Notes

  • "Allot means to 'parcel out' (the noun is allotment). It has nothing to do with a lot (i.e. a 'large quantity'). But the real error comes when [the two words a lot] are written as one--'alot.' People do this either because pronunciation runs them together, or perhaps influenced by such spelling as 'aloud' and 'alone.' Whatever the excuse, alot is always wrong."
    (Philip Gooden, Who's Whose: A No-Nonsense Guide to Easily Confused Words. Walker & Company, 2004)
  • A Lot, Not Alot
    "Teachers of writing have seen the spelling alot in student papers more times than they care to remember, and they can expect to keep on seeing it. Even experienced writers find themselves writing alot for a lot, especially when working under pressure . . .. The fusion of an article and a noun into a single word is a normal linguistic phenomenon, having occurred in another and awhile, so it is possible that we all may write alot one day. For the time being, however, keep in mind that alot is still considered an error in print."
    (The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style. Houghton Mifflin, 2005)

    Practice

    (a) "My mother and the boys spent _____ of time visiting Grandpa and Grandma Carden."
    (Eudora Welty, One Writer's Beginnings, 1984)

    (b) "When it comes to rhythm, you have to _____ each note its proper amount of time, or number of beats."
    (Michael Sanchez, Fiddle for Dummies. Wiley, 2015)

    Answers 

    Answers to Practice Exercises: Allot, A Lot, and Alot

    (a) "My mother and the boys spent a lot of time visiting Grandpa and Grandma Carden."
    (Eudora Welty, One Writer's Beginnings, 1984)

    (b) "When it comes to rhythm, you have to allot each note its proper amount of time, or number of beats."
    (Michael Sanchez, Fiddle for Dummies. Wiley, 2015)