Which Words Work? A Lot, Allot, or Alot?

Mar 18, 2022 | Posted by Jennifer

When I review my students’ papers, the same words tend to be confused and misused. Among the most frequent errors I encounter are the words a lot, allot, and alot. If you have students who similarly mix up the three, I hope this blog post will help. If appropriate, share it with your students or their parents, or read it during class. Hopefully it will help to demystify these common confusables.

Let’s begin with alot. It is perhaps the most frequent misuse I encounter of the three. Simply stated, alot is never a word. Nevertheless, I often see students insert this spelling into their compositions. I actually place this nonsense word on my banned words list and ask my students who type to do a word search for it before they submit their papers. That helps bring it to their attention and avoid putting it into their drafts.

Allot, however, is a word. It functions as a verb and means this: to designate a certain amount of something towards something else. I like to allot all of the coins I receive as return change for treats, such as an ice cream cone from the local drive-through or a trendy tea at my local coffee shop. Many years ago, I allotted a large stash of coins that I had been saving for quite some time to go towards the purchase of a comfortable recliner. I still enjoy that chair! One can allot a section of seating in a building to those who need easier access. By placing the suffix -ment onto the end of the word, we can change the verb into a noun. Using it in a sample sentence, I come up with the following: The bookstore set aside an allotment of the latest bestseller for those who had preordered it.

Finally, we come to a lot. When my students write alot, they almost always mean a lot. The noun lot is preceded by the article a. The phrase indicates having a large amount of something. I have a lot of cats (four). I have quite a lot of books in my office. And I have a lot of grading piling up that I am currently avoiding by writing this post.

I hope that this blog post will be a helpful resource for you as you teach your students to write. I suppose I’d better begin to tackle that pile of grading glaring at me from the corner of my desk, however. There is quite a lot of it to do!


Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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