Sunday, September 25, 2005

When "more importantly" may not be "more important"

Questionable phrase: "more importantly"
Citation: "
Can Bloggers Strike It Rich?" by Adam L. Penenberg, Wired online, News
Usage: Fifth paragraph, "...but more importantly, they'd be validating..." used as a bridge in quoting David Hauslaib, founder of
Jossip and Queerty blogs.
Recommendation: "more important"
Rationale: Here again, this is a quote, so maybe this isn't as pure an example as I could use, but I ran into it today and it occurs frequently in many other magazines, newspapers, and other communications vehicles.

The problem with using "importantly" this way (beyond this specific example) is that it's an
adverb, and what does that adverb modify? Taken face value, it seems to say that the mere fact of stating the clause which is to come is important, giving an unintended heightened sense of importance to the writer. What the writer (or speaker, in this case) really means is that the point he is about to make is more important than the point he previously made in the same (long) sentence. In this case, I think "more important" is the better phrase.

It's become almost standard use, and I think it occurs out of rote rather than out of correctness. One almost falls easily into its use because one has seen it so often.

What do you think?

Also see my blog on cliches at (Note the hyphens in "cliche-a-day".)


Blogger wordsworth said...

I invited author Adam L. Penenberg to read and respond to this posting. He kindly wrote back with the following response:

Although I admit that anything I write is fair game for the word police -- and I'm a bit of a grammar geek myself -- I'm not sure it's fair to hold speakers -- or even emailers and bloggers --to the same standard. I don't clean up quotes, and I would be reluctant to break them up just to fix a subject's grammar. The content of Hauslaib's quote, its freshness and introduction of pertinent material, makes it perfect for use as a quote. So what would you do? Clean up the grammar or keep it in its pristine state?

What I usually do is let the speaker say it in his/her own way, but if there's a better way, I'm all ears.


1:03 PM, September 26, 2005  
Blogger wordsworth said...

I can see why Mr. Penenberg is skittish about changing a quote. However, I do think it's permissable to correct grammar in a quote as long as doing so doesn't change the essential message of the quote. In this instance, I don't think it would be a problem. A lot depends on the person you are quoting and his or her sensitivity to language.

I also agree that it's not fair to hold speakers to the same standard as the writer. However, it is fair to expect e-mailers and bloggers to clean up their copy. I recently read a blog in which the writer continually jumped from using "your" and "you're" when "you're" was obviously the correct usage. That looks sloppy and makes me wonder how careful the writer has been with the rest of his information. Furthermore, I spend a lot of time noticing the error and missing the point. I see no excuse for sloppy grammar and spelling, not to mention typos, in whatever forum a writer uses. It doesn't take long to peruse content before publishing it, and it certainly takes little more effort to run a spell check.

5:58 PM, September 26, 2005  

Post a Comment

<< Home