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Are you hopeful? 

Rosie Right

This week Rosie was given a manuscript to copy edit that contained the following sentence:

"… hopefully these glitches will be worked out by the time the tour hits Virginia."

Aha! thought this intrepid copy editor: That has to be changed. It is not correct to start a sentence with hopefully used to modify the sentence. But when one starts to change a writer's sentence, it's best to be able to defend one's position.

Looking first at her Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, Rosie found several columns of exposition that were summarized thus:

"…many commentators now accept the usage, but it seems safe to predict that there will be some who continue to revile it well into the next century. You can use it if you need it, or avoid it if you do not like it. There never was anything really wrong with it; it was censured, as Bolinger 1980 notes, because it was new, and it is not very new any more."

Joseph M Williams' manual "Style: Toward Clarity and Grace" weighed in on the subject. In a section titled Bˆtes Noires he writes:

"For some, one set of 'rules' has become the object of particularly fierce attention. They are the rules that the Pop Grammarians endlessly rehearse as evidence that English is close to being a terminal case. Why they excite such intense feeling has no rational explanation ..."

One of these rules, he tells us, is "Use hopefully only when the subject of the sentence is in fact hopeful. Not this:

"Hopefully, the matter will be resolved soon.

"But this:

"I hopefully say that the matter will be resolved soon.

"This rule has become so deeply entrenched in the minds of many that it is impossible to convince them that it is entirely idiosyncratic. When used to introduce a sentence such as

"Hopefully, it will not rain tomorrow.

"hopefully refers to the feelings of the speaker …

"It is parallel to introductory words such as candidly, bluntly, seriously, frankly, I ...

"Logic further requires that if we want to reject all introductory words that we think are 'vague' or 'unspecific,' then we should reject all metadiscourse such as to summarize, in conclusion, finally, etc. because every one of those words and phrases also qualified the voice of the writer. … But of course, logic has nothing to do with these points of usage."

Rosie left the writer's sentence as it was originally written. Hopefully, you will read all of this next issue of Family Style and find it in one of the articles.



Let Rosie hear from you by telephone (358-0825), letter (1118 W. Main St., Richmond, Va. 23220), fax (355-9089) or e-mail rmail@richmond.infi.net
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