Is It Okay to Use the Word Hopefully?
There remains debate about whether this adverb is appropriate or not. According to an NPR article, thirty years ago a few famous grammarians decided to “vilify” the word. Prior to this, so they say, the word was used without complaint. After three decades of debate, most of us are now confused.
I like to quote Diana Hacker, author of many editions of the favorite college English Composition grammar and mechanics style manual called A Pocket Style Manual, which is a reliable resource for those who use MLA, APA, and Chicago styles. She says about hopefully the following:
Hopefully means “in a hopeful manner.” We looked hopefully to the future. Some usage experts object to the use of hopefully as a sentence adverb, apparently on grounds of clarity. To be safe, avoid using hopefully in sentences such as the following: Hopefully, your son will recover soon. Instead, indicate who is doing the hoping: I hope that your son will recover soon.
I think she could have explained further that what matters is who is doing the hoping. In her example, Hopefully, your son will recover, it reads as though it’s the son who is doing the hoping. In the next example, I hope that your son will recover soon, it is clear that it is I who is doing the hoping. This is what she means about issues of clarity.
If this sort of thing entertains you, you might enjoy reading a Washington Post article about the 2012 Associated Press (AP) Stylebook authors’ decision to accept hopefully in its modern form. It’s a humorous piece that also laments other English misusages such as Nauseated vs. Nauseous, Healthy vs. Healthful, and “the combination of ‘regardless’ and ‘irrespective’ to form the Frankensteinian hybrid ‘irregardless,’” considered by most to be not a word at all.
Susan is a retired English professor of 25 years who enjoys all that her home state of Colorado offers. She is an avid road bicyclist, hiker, and viola player with six published books who has really, really—yes really—enjoyed teaching grammar and mechanics to her students.