Diction can be one of the most powerful writing tools that you can use! It can create vivid images, portray stories, and even sway readers to agree with your beliefs. One interesting thing about diction is that even small choices such as using “all of” instead of “all” could make a huge difference in your writing.
Related: here is an excellent article about “diction in writing.”
When Should You Use “All Of?”
In general, using “all of” in your sentences should have to do with grammar more than personal choice. In general, “all” indicates how much of something is being referred to. When you say “all,” you refer to everything discussed in your sentence.
When the word following “all” is a personal pronoun such as “me,” “you,” or “us,” you should add “of” to make the sentence grammatically correct. This distinction can often become second nature if you are a native English speaker. Take a look at these sentences pairs that correctly and incorrect use “all” and “all of:”
- Correct: All of you are going to detention!
- Incorrect: All you are going to detention!
- Correct: I put the children to bed, all of whom didn’t want to sleep.
- Incorrect: I put the children to bed, all of whom didn’t want to sleep.
When another phrase determiner (such as “the”) comes in the phrase, it is also customary to use “all of.” For example:
- All of the penguins at the zoo were lively today!
- Don’t worry; I have all of the documents right here.
When using demonstrative determiners like “this” or “these” and possessive adjectives, such as “my,” you can also use “all of.” For instance:
- All of that stuff is nonsense.
- All of these apples are ripe!
- All of my students passed their exams!
- She was happy, as all of her work was finished.
Additionally, a few style guides recommend leaving out “of” whenever possible. Although this is a general tip, it doesn’t match every situation, and you should write what sounds best to you.
When Should You Use “All?”
In what situations is it only correct to use “all” alone? Generally, you should use “all” when working with pronouns or determiners, but what other instances is it recommended?
First, you should use “all” when placed before a noun that refers to a class of things. For example:
- All dogs are nice!
- I love all topics in school.
When the noun in your sentence is a mass/uncountable noun, you also should use “all” alone. For instance:
- All food is good food!
- I’m sure I have all the knowledge I need to pass my test.
Using “All” In Other Cases
You can use “all” as a relative or personal pronoun in your sentences. When used as a pronoun, it usually means “everything” or “everyone.” Additionally, as a pronoun, you don’t need to add “of.” For example:
- All is good; don’t worry.
- The document was for all who were involved in the project.
In the end, you should use “all of” when your sentence has personal pronouns being used. Additionally, you can use “all of” when there are additional determiners or personal adjectives.
In contrast, it is best to use “all” when it comes before a mass noun or a noun that describes a class of things. Lastly, you can also use “all” as a personal noun in place of words like “everything” and “everyone.”