Yesterday someone on one of the boards I lurk linked to a highly entertaining Cracked.com piece called 7 Commonly Corrected Grammar Errors (That Aren’t Mistakes). For me, the link was incredibly timely because I was just about to send out a short story, and one of the last reviews I do of a story is what I like to call the “S&W” review.
Basically, I flip through my copy of The Elements of Style and look for all the items I put little stars next to the first time I read it, which were items that I figured I was going to mess up on occasion or knew I was bad at. Things like using “alright” instead of “all right.” Or using “hopefully” incorrectly.
So, funny enough, I read this cracked.com article and there was a discussion of the use of hopefully (Item #7). In S&W they refer to the misuse of hopefully as “not merely wrong” but “silly” and claim that “it offends the ear” and leads to “ambiguity, softness, or nonsense.” I found this opinion a bit extreme, but having met a few grammar nazis in my day, I figure it’s good to have their playbook, so I can keep the annoyances to a minimum when trying to convince someone else to pay for my work. It was nice, though, to see someone come out on the other side of the debate and say that using hopefully at the beginning of a sentence is perfectly fine.
As I said in the original grammar post, I think there’s a basic level that you need to reach with your writing (use the correct forms of it’s/its, your/you’re, there/their/they’re, use an apostrophe for I’m, etc.), but when you get into some of these debates it’s really not worth the time or effort.
I don’t even think about most of these when I’m writing a piece, and none of my betas have mentioned it. (Perhaps because I’m not friends with many of that type – they’re the same ones who frown at the way I hold my fork and think that I’m lacking in class because I wear jeans.) I do consider S&W at the end, as a final check, but reserve the right to say “OK, that’s what you think, but I’m going to use it anyway, because I like the way it sounds. So, pbbbt.”
I think (unpublished writer that I am) that you have to at some point have the confidence to stand up for your way of expressing things. But, as with all opinions, it’s better to know both sides of the argument and be able to defend your choice than to blindly choose one direction or another out of pure ignorance, lack of education, or lack of exposure. So, be aware of S&W and all those other grammar rules out there, but, once you are, feel free to disagree. Language changes and evolves all the time. Go with it.