Prompt Proofing Blog Post: Grammar Tips - Some Debatable Issues, Part 1
Some Debatable Issues, Part 1: "hopefully".
VANCOUVER, BC, June 01, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Surprisingly enough, grammarians do not always agree. Investigate any contentious point of grammar and you will likely find opposing viewpoints, hotly contested. If experts cannot agree, what hope is there, then, for the average, would-be-accurate writer?
Our philosophy at Prompt Proofing is that language evolves, constantly and that common usage can eventually change time-honoured rules. A case in point would be the decision by the compilers of the AP style guide to allow "hopefully" to be used to open a sentence with the intended meaning, "we hope that" or "it is hoped that".
Hopefully, the weather will stay fine for our picnic.
Clearly the weather is not 'full of hope' and this usage causes many diehard grammarians to shudder; they have been insisting for years that "hopefully" means "full of hope" as in "We could still win, he murmured hopefully."
Nonetheless, there is an argument for using 'hopefully' as a sentence adverb - consider, for example, the words 'curiously' or 'clearly' (among others), which are often used in a similar fashion.
1. Curiously, few people take advantage of this offer.
We understand perfectly that the people are not taking advantage with curiosity, rather it is the fact that few people take advantage that is curious.
2. Clearly, ten people cannot travel in one vehicle.
The people are not travelling 'clearly', the adverb is simply being used to suggest that the situation is clear.
Common usage has made the sentences cited above perfectly acceptable. Curiously and clearly are used as sentence adverbs, referring to the entire sentence rather than a particular verb. There is, therefore, no logical reason for hopefully to be treated differently.
The main purpose of correct grammar is clarity. If the meaning of a sentence is ambiguous, then a grammatical change is necessary. Consider the following:
Curiously, despite the warnings, many people approach the cliff edge to peer over.
This is ambiguous - does the writer deem it curious that many people ignore the warnings, or were the people who chose to ignore the warnings curious as to what could be seen over the edge of the cliff?
This sentence could be clarified thus:
It was curious that many people approach the cliff edge to peer over, despite the warnings.
Despite the warnings, many people approach the cliff edge to peer over curiously.
Which version you choose depends, of course, on the intended meaning.
Writing, "Hopefully there will not be too much traffic..." may still annoy some people; however, should anyone criticize your usage, you can always quote the AP stylebook in your defence!
Check back next month for other debatable issues.
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