Friday, March 4, 2016


In a New Yorker video, Mary Norris explains why she disapproves of beginning a sentence with the phrase most importantly:

“It should be most important because it’s short for what is most important . When you say most importantly , it sounds really pompous.”
In Garner’s Modern American Usage (2009), Bryan Garner offers three arguments for the legitimacy of beginning with more importantly or most importantly : 1. the word importantly by itself can begin a sentence; 2. similar phrases require -ly (more interestingly , more notably ), 3. more important or most important becomes unidiomatic if the phrase is placed later in a sentence. His conclusion:
The criticism of more importantly and most importantly has always been rather muted and obscure, and today it has dwindled to something less than muted and obscure. So writers needn’t fear any criticism for using the -ly forms; if they encounter any, it’s easily dismissed as picayunish pedantry.
Searching Orange Crate Art, I find just three sentences beginning with more importantly or most importantly:
More importantly, I’ve reorganized the jumble of sentences into three paragraphs.

Most importantly, it's the work of the only Brian Wilson we have.

“And most importantly, it has the colors we’ve been trying to put together now for what must be two whole years — check.”
And two sentences beginning with more important :
More important: there appears to be no evidence that Ellington had any particular attachment to the Blackwing pencil, or to any writing instrument.

More important: a curve applies only to students who have done the work.
I suspect that the little man in my head who takes care of these matters has drawn a distinction between the sentence adverb importantly and the elliptical important (for what is more important , followed by a colon).

To each their own.

Related reading
All OCA Bryan Garner posts (Pinboard)
A review of Mary Norris’s Between You & Me


4:53 p.m.: Now the link for Mary Norris’s video goes to the video.

[For anyone who watches the video: H. W. Fowler’s A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926) has nothing to say about massive . Sir Ernest Gowers wrote about the word for the book’s second (1965) edition. About the little man: the poet Ted Berrigan says somewhere that a little man in a poet’s head takes care of rhyme and meter.]

comments: 0