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CULTURE WATCH : Most Importantly, There's No Answer

August 30, 1993|HARTFORD COURANT

While the "important/importantly" controversy may not rival the great philosophical schisms of our time, it has precipitated a minor civil war of its own.

Traditionally, grammarians have preferred most important because they view it as an "elliptical rendering" of the longer clause what is most important.

But, defying this semantic sanity, we great ungrammatical masses seem to favor "most importantly." We've even extended the adverb form to other words, as in the sentence, "More disturbingly, we've extended it to other words."

In 1969, the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary delivered what might be described as an "elliptical rendering" on the "important / importantly" question, courageously splitting right down the middle. Exactly 50% of the experts regarded "most importantly" as an acceptable alternative to "most important."

More important, the most recent edition of the same dictionary reports "both forms are widely used by reputable writers, and there is no obvious reason for preferring one or the other."

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