I just discovered something amazing that I’d done several years ago. (Don’t worry: I’m not bragging!)
I was revising a 2010 post from my blog about police reports. See if you notice anything about this paragraph:
Let’s use an everyday example that might make the rule more clear. You can’t be the worst child in your family unless your parents had at least three children. If there are only two children, you’re the worse child. (Or, hopefully, the better one!) Best, worst, most, and so on require three or more people or things.
OK, here it is. “Or, hopefully, the better one” is a controversial way to use hopefully, which is supposed to mean “in a hopeful manner.”
Here’s the correct way to use hopefully:
Margaret looked hopefully at the door. CORRECT
For some reason I’m proud of that not-quite-kosher “hopefully” sentence on my blog. (It’s still there, by the way – I liked it, and I’m not taking it down.)
Let me explain. I am hyper-aware of language. I know the rules. I automatically run everything I say and write through the usage-checking software in my brain. Of course I’m casual about language much of the time – but I always know what I’m doing.
Or that’s what I thought.
But now I have evidence that I didn’t notice I was using hopefully in a not-so-accepted way – and on a professional blog. Geez. I didn’t think I had it in me.
I’m going to start wearing a cap that says “I’m a human being!”
(By the way, I’m not alone in this. Mary Norris – author of the wonderful Confessions of a Comma Queen – does not approve of the singular they. But she used it herself in the same book where she denounces it: “Nobody wanted to think they were not essential.” Hey, Mary – you’re human too!)