Wright or Write or Right? When the Play’s the Thing, Which is It?

Shakespeare was a writer of plays. So, was he a playwrite? A playright? Or a playwright?

It certainly seems that “write” would be correct, because that’s what a playwright does — he writes. Right?

But a writer of plays is someone who creates — or sometimes repairs, rewrites or reconstructs — something specific (a play). He or she builds or constructs a play. A “wright” is someone who creates, builds, or repairs something specified. The word derives from Old English wryhta or wyrhta. You see it used for professions such as shipwright or wheelwright.

According to Merriam-Webster, the first known use of the word playwright was in the year 1616, which was the year Shakespeare died.

Thus, the writer of plays is a playwright, but the action of creating a play is called, in modern English, playwriting (just like screenwriting).

So, now you know what’s right! Right?

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