Grammar Friday

man_question_markLanguage and grammar rules change over time, of course. Even so, I’ve been shocked to see how the AP Stylebook has been modifying the rules lately. Here are three examples:

  • Yesterday, at the American Copy Editors Society conference (yes, there really is such an organization!), Associated Press editors declared that “over” is now fine when referring to a quantity. It doesn’t have to be changed to “more than.” So, it’s now ok with AP to say that McDonald’s has sold over 45 billion hamburgers. Most of you won’t get worked up over this, but suffice it to say it’s heresy to old-line editors.

Here’s the explanation from AP Stylebook Editor Darrell Christian: “We decided on the change because it has become common usage. We’re not dictating that people use ‘over,’ only that they may use it as well as ‘more than’ to indicate greater numerical value.”

  • Last year, AP loosened its rule on the word “underway,” saying that it should now be one word in all circumstances. It used to be that “underway” was one word only when used as an adjective, as in, “It’s an underway project.” Otherwise, AP style dictated that a publication should write, “The project is under way.”
  • AP now allows this construction: “Hopefully, they’ll be here soon.” Previously, “hopefully” was used only to mean “with hope,” as in, “We went hopefully to see the priest.”

Times change, but it seems odd to say a rule is changing because of common usage. Many of us use “ain’t” often, but that’s no reason to deem it acceptable. I, for one, will be sticking to the old rules on these matters.

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3 Responses to Grammar Friday

  1. Ned Maniscalco says:

    The AP’s latest declaration is over I can tolerate.

  2. Joe Elstner says:

    The “hopefully” one is the worst. Next they’ll be allowing various degrees of “unique,” which continues to drive me nuts….really unique, most unique, very unique, etc. And speaking of “etc.,” which is short for “etcetera,” I hear “excetera” constantly.

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