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Grammar Repair Shop: ‘More important’ matters

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Problem: The phrase that annoys me most lately — “more importantly” — is widely used on television shows and commercials alike. It seems to me that it should be “more important,” unless the speaker is referring to the way something is done. Do you agree? — Nancy Cleveland, Edward Lowe Foundation, Cassopolis, Mich.

It’s true; both “more important” and “more importantly” are used interchangeably these days. Speakers and writers must think that the extra “ly” makes their comments sound more impressive.

But it’s not grammatically correct to do so.

Example: “More important, he’d forgotten to bring the notes for his speech.”

In the example above, the adjectival phrase “more important” modifies the entire main clause that follows: “he’d forgotten to bring the notes for his speech.” The adverbial phrase “more importantly,” on the other hand, would modify only the verb “forgotten,” which changes the sentence’s meaning entirely.

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