When is the proper time to use tonite or is it proper at all to use? I have seen it a lot recently and was wondering which type of situation calls for it.
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'Tonite' is the lazy man's way of spelling 'tonight'. No situation calls for it. Thank goodness it is not yet acceptable orthography, but will probably eventually be included in the dictionary as an alternate spelling, much to the purist's chagrin.
English is (almost) a second language for me, but I've been teaching the thing for eleven years now, and this 'Internet spelling' of words and phrases is slowly but surely becoming an epidemic.

Apart from (relatively simple) mis-spellings like 'tonite' or 'nite', there have been numerous sightings of the use of 'there' as a substitute for the possessive 'their', and also of the possessive 'your' instead of the contracted verb form 'you're'. In sentences llike this:

Your right to make them carry there backpacks the rest of the way.

I haven't determined the origin of this practice, at first I thought it was simply an americanism, limited to teen web surfers, but I'm beginning to see it in other varieties of English, and in print, and the average age of the users seems to be going up, and up, and up. (Could be the same people growing, though...)
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I think that right now tonight is the only right spelling, unless you're talking about explosives, because according to wikipedia tonite is a type of explosive.

However, tonite and nite really aren't 'modern' ways of spelling. Tonite and nite were used all the time in the fifties. Don't know much about spelling/language, but as a film student I have to study old film advertisements and both tonite and nite are used all the time.
  • "Tonite" is the original spelling and usage from the Olde English derevation in the early thirteenth century. "Tonight" was the adaptation and later, more widely accepted English version after the US colonization.
  • AnonymousThank you, thank you, thank you! That had been bothering me for years! I have always gone with tonight, yet wondered why so many used tonite.
    The latest go-around can be traced to the spelling reform movement of the Chicago Tribune.

    From http://www.basic-english.org/21/spelling.html

    Chicago Tribune, McCormick, for the period 1934-1975
    ad or advert for advertisement
    nite for night
    til for till and until
    tho for though
    thoro for thorough
    thru for through
    In the last hundred years, spelling reform has been successful in
    a few instances. These are now preferred form, not just acceptable from
    the spelling of 100 years ago:

    axe ax
    catalogue catalog
    colour color
    phantasy fantasy
    humour humor
    interne intern
    programme program
    prologue prolog
    publick public

    There are others, these were taken from examples.

    From http://www.barnsdle.demon.co.uk/spell/histsp.html

    This next part, concerning the "Chicago Tribune," was written by Ken Ives:
    As early as the 1870s, the Chicago Tribune began using reformed spellings. Joseph Medill, editor and owner, was a member of the Council of the Spelling Reform Association. In 1880 the Chicago Spelling Reform Association met at the Sherman House and read letters approving the Tribune's efforts.
    About 50 years later, under Medill's grandson, Robert H. McCormick, and editor James O'Donnell Bennett, the Tribune began a new effort. This "practical test of spelling reform" started in January 1934, and continued for 41 years, with various changes.
    An unsystematic list of 80 respelled words was introduced in four editorials over a two month period, and used thereafter in the paper, which had the largest circulation in Chicago. On January 28, "advertisment, catalog," and seven more "-gue" words were among those shortened. The February 11 list included "agast, ameba, burocrat, crum, missil, subpena." On February 25, "bazar, hemloc, herse, intern, rime, sherif, staf," were among those introduced. On March 11 an editorial reported that "short spelling wins votes of readers 3 to 1." On March 18, the final list included "glamor, harth, iland, jaz, tarif, trafic." An editorial that day, "Why dictionary makers avoid simpler spellings" claimed that they dare not pioneer, "prejudice and competition prevent it."
    On September 24, 1939, the list was reduced to 40, but "tho, altho, thru, thoro," were added. Addition of "frate, frater" came on September 24, 1945. Changing "ph" not at the start of a word to "f" came on July 3, 1949, with "autograf, telegraf, philosofy, photograf, sofomore."
    (end of passage from Ken Ives)
    In the decades following this, the "Chicago Tribune" removed more words from this list. By the end of the 1960s, "tarif," "sodder," "clew," and "frate" were among those dropped. They used "thru" and "tho" until 1975, when they basically stopped using simplified spellings. The newspaper continued to use the "-log" for "-logue" spellings for a while after that, but then went back to the "-logue" forms


    Personal note: I still see "thru" on traffic signs all over the country, so maybe this one has caught on, at least for traffic signs!

    Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
    Indeed, I'd agree that many of today's people are unlettered in the arts of etymology and spell tonight as tonite only because (1) they don't know the correct spelling or (2) they are just using it as a commonplace internet colloquialism (or "lazy man's spelling").

    Contrarily, the original spelling of tonight was actually to-nite. In the early 1900's, the hyphen (-) was thought of as cumbersome and superfluous and was thus often omitted (just as the hyphen in e-mail is often omitted). The use of today (without a hyphen) was seen as early as the 1700's; and the use of to-day was seen as late as 1912 (I believe) in English literature. The use of to-nite and tonite were used as late as the 1920's in English literature. Oftentimes, to-nite was verily written as tonite which, in event and unbeknownst to me, became the tonight that we use today.
    Well when text for mobile phones came out I was young and I felt like I was the only one using proper spelling with text! Thank you for making it known I wasn't the only one, it is by far a plague! I can't stand it when people send me text messages that have all sorts of slang words, intentional misspellings, and abbreviated sentences! I know I am no academic writer, but I try my best to write properly!

    Actually "alternate" is the correct word to use in this sense. They are both words. Alternative is used when refering to the word original word. The alternative to tonight is tonite. However, alternate is used when describing the word. It is like a label of the word
    No, alternate is a verb, alternative is a noun. Hence, no such thing as an 'alternate spelling' (or an 'alternate ending', despite the entire movie industry seeming to think otherwise!).

    However, one can alternate between two alternative spellings ...
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