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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

AP’s approval of ‘hopefully’ symbolizes larger debate over language | Monica Hesse, The Washington Post

I've long been in the editorial camp that rejected using "hopefully" to modify an entire sentence in serious writing. But I've been moving toward the popular AND logical use of hopefully in that way. The hopefully entry in my online editorial style manual comments on this issue, though I'm going to be updating it, following acceptance by The Associated Press (and other style guides) of that use.

Hesse writes: 
As long as there have been words, words have changed. Our modern language is a mishmash of migrated semantics, full of uses that have drifted over centuries. Diligent grammarians might know that “momentarily” most correctly means “for a moment,” not “in a moment” — but do they realize that “explode” originally meant “reject,” that “handsome” once meant “easy to handle,” that “ludicrous” once meant “frivolous”? In the 1940s, it was considered vulgar to “contact” someone; respectable people knew that the correct use was “to make contact with.”

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