April 17, 2012

Hopefully, copy editors will find another spike on which to impale sentences. Says an update to the AP Stylebook:

The traditional meaning is in a hopeful manner. Also acceptable is the modern usage: it’s hoped, we hope. Correct: “You’re leaving soon?” she asked hopefully.

The old rule:

It means in a hopeful manner. Do not use it to mean it is hoped, let us hope or we hope.

In his 2007 book “When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It,” Ben Yagoda summed up the history of this troublesome word: It has been used in its arriviste sense since at least 1702 and became a bugaboo in print around 1960. There’s no good argument against using it as a sentence adverb, he declares, but:

I don’t use hopefully in writing and I cast a cold eye on those who do. Hoping is a vague, unsophisticated, and largely uninteresting state of mind. One associates it with children and their feelings about birthday presents and snow days. Compared to the surgical precision of sentence adverbs like presumably, ostensibly, and understandably, hopefully is a bowl of mush.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

More News

Back to News


Comments are closed.