Introductory Adverbs

rogersgeorge on March 27th, 2016

A favorite bugaboo of grammar teachers is the word hopefully. As in something like “Hopefully we won’t have that English test tomorrow.” What the speaker means is “I hope we won’t…” This solecism is a lot more common than the mere misuse of “hopefully.” Google “reportedly” and you’ll see examples of professional news writers saying something like this actual headline, for example:

Threatening letter reportedly sent to Donald Trump’s son

They sent the letter in a reported manner??? What they mean is

Someone reported that …

That way, at least, the writer is admitting he (or she) doesn’t know or doesn’t want to reveal the source. Yes, yes, “reportedly” is shorter, and people generally know what is meant (so I predict we’re going to lose that battle), and besides, how good does news writing have to be? But if you’re explaining something and want your readers to absorb your information effortlessly, why not use the clearest wording?

Basic Instructions is one of my favorite comics, partly because he gets his grammar right. I also enjoy the subtle humor. Here’s an example of using an introductory adverb correctly. It’s the first word in the comic:

unnamed

“Publicly” means “in a public manner,” which is what he means. Nice and clean.

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