Commonly Misused Words: Hopefully

March 20, 2008: Issue 231

Beware the wrath of language purists when you use the word hopefully.

While it’s acceptable in the sense of it is hoped, as in “Hopefully the new stove will fit,” some people still consider this a dangling modifier because hopefully doesn’t modify the verb fit. (How will the new stove fit? Easily, snugly, barely—but not hopefully.)

In all but the most casual writing, avoid this construction. Instead, specify who’s doing the hoping: “I hope the new stove will fit.”

Otherwise, stick to using hopefully to modify a verb in the sentence, as in “My dog gazed up hopefully when she heard the pretzel bag rustle.”

Read more: There’s a nice discussion of this issue in the Web 11 entry for hopefully. Check it out, and then drop the word disjunct into your next conversation with CEs. Hopefully we’ll be impressed.

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