Hopefully Now Allowed By AP Stylebook

Hopefully Now Allowed By AP Stylebook

Hey, Karl, did you see what the Associated Press Stylebook announced about 'hopefully' last week?

"No, Kid, what's that?"

They said they would no longer object to using the word 'hopefully' at the beginning of a sentence, rather than making people say 'I am hopeful' or 'It is hoped that.'

"Are you kidding me?!" thundered Karl, plonking his empty beer mug down on the bar. We were at Milton's, a literary bar, where Karl had performed admirably in the week's Tuesday night political poetry slam. He plonked again in displeasure. Karl is a serious word snob.

Sadly, no, I'm not, I said. They said it wasn't really necessary to do anymore.

"Why the hell not?"

Unfortunately, the rule has just fallen by the wayside. They said it has become a victim of 'common usage,' the idea that so many people were using it that the English language has once again grown and evolved to allow it as a rule. They made the announcement, and it caused quite the uproar online. A lot of people have refused to accept it, because they still think it's wrong.

"Because it IS wrong," said Karl. He gestured at Kurt, the bartender, for two more beers. "Kid, I tell you, sometimes I despair for the language I love. People are just screwing it up for the rest of us because they're too lazy to learn the damn rules. Have I ever told you about my high school English teacher, Mrs. Kugelschreiber?"

Frequently, I said.

He continued on as if I hadn't said anything. "Mrs. Kugelschreiber loved language. She loved it like a mother loves a child. And she wanted to impart that knowledge to her students, so we would learn to love it as much as she did. While most kids didn't care about it, I loved it. I loved learning about language from her, I loved reading books, I loved writing." Karl paused and took a drink.

"And do you know how I studied for her class?"

Eagerly? I asked.

"Eagerly!" he enthused, plonking his beer again for good measure, ignoring the spillover. I hear this story every time some style guide changes a small writing rule. "Mrs. Kugelschreiber made me want to be a writer. Without her, I'd be a lifer at the state government, overseeing contracts and capital purchases."

Honestly, Karl, it's not that big a deal. Language changes, rules change. What was considered acceptable back when you were a kid changed at the turn of the century, back when Teddy Roosevelt was president.

"Ha ha, Kid," Karl deadpanned. "How's it feel to kick an old man when he's down?"

Surprisingly, pretty good.

"You don't understand, Kid. This 'hopefully' rule was what separated us language snobs from the language slobs."

You stole that from William Safire, I said.

"Yeah, so?" challenged Karl. "What's he going to do about it?"

Probably nothing. He died three years ago.

"Well crap, this is going to suck," pouted Karl. "He would have been the man to lead the charge against this abomination, this travesty of grammatical justice. Now who will help us fight against these Philistines of foulness?"

Seriously, Karl, don't you think you're overdoing it a bit?

"Not at all. This is an important issue to grammar purists everywhere. The line must be drawn here. This far, and no further"

Really? Now you're quoting Captain Picard?

"Hey, whatever works."

So what are you going to use instead? 'It is to be hoped that?' One hopefully hater suggested that as a 'natural substitute,' but that's about as natural as the red carpet walk at the Oscars. And if you ever use that as a sentence starter, I'm going to shred your entire manuscript.

"Thankfully, it won't ever happen," said Karl. "Because I'm a good writer."

Actually, you're a selective rule follower. You're not even following an entire grammar rule, you're just re-spouting the same nonsense as other misinformed grammar purists. And besides, you just said 'thankfully.'

"Kid, what are you talking about?"

Karl, think about it. Nearly every sentence I've said back to you started with a floating sentence adverb, just like hopefully. The fact that I did it, and you and every other grammar grump have never groused about those words should tell you that this is just a bugbear that people like to flog to sound smart. But the fact is, it should never have been a rule in the first place; it was created back in the 60s, even though it had been acceptable before then. Otherwise, words like sadly, unfortunately, and frequently would have raised red flags for you too. Which means it's not a real rule.

Karl stammered and sputtered, not quite knowing what to say. I had won the argument, and he was going to pout in silence for a little while.

Hopefully it will last for more than a few minutes this time.


Insider Notes

Here's some extra bonus material that readers of my newspaper column don't get.

If you want to read a well-reasoned article about using and not using the word "hopefully," check out the Grammar Girl website. Her contention is that while it is not correct to use it in most instances, there are instances where it is okay to use.

The thing to realize about what the AP has done is they have said they will no longer object to sentences that start with the word Hopefully. What does that mean to you, the regular reader? Absolutely nothing. The Associated Press writes the AP Stylebook, which is a guide that's really only intended for journalists and editors working for the Associated Press. However, most media outlets use it as well, except for some big ones, like the New York Times. The AP does not have any control over the way regular people use language. They're not the arbiters of proper usage. If you don't want to use "hopefully" to start a sentence, you don't have to. No one can make you, including the Associated Press.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My latest book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.


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