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A hopeless cause?

“The Associated Press Stylebook” – the bible that sets the rules for word usage in all kinds of media – recently decided to accept the word “hopefully.”

But nothing’s changed for the style manual born at Cornell. “The Elements of Style” didn’t include “hopefully” in William Strunk’s original 1918 volume or E.B. White’s updated 1959 edition, but in 1972, White ’21 made his disapproval official.

“Although the word in its new free-floating capacity may be pleasurable and even useful to many, it offends the ear of many others, who do not like to see words dulled or eroded,” he wrote.

“He saw the meaning of the word changing from ‘with hope’ to ‘I hope,’ and believed it had become distorted in the 1960s and 1970s,” said University Archivist Elaine Engst (above, with the manual). “In the 21st century, ‘hopefully’ no longer grates on our ears, and people have continued to use it in the new way. Would White have approved? Perhaps, perhaps not. He didn’t see language as fossilized. He himself revised and expanded Strunk’s original work and revised his own work twice; once, of course, to add ‘hopefully’!”

 

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