And if yes, is it common or rather odd?

Example sentence:

Anecdotally, we do see instances of customers buying both our products at the same store.

The Chrome spellchecker doesn't seem to know it, by the way:

A screen capture showing the word "Anecdotally" underlined with a squiggly red line.

  • Spellchecker is no substitute for a dictionary. Try looking in a dictionary. The word is common. – GMB Jun 30 '14 at 17:51
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    I did and found it in some dictionaries, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's common in everyday language. Spellchecker is also not the only reason I'm asking, it also looks/sounds a bit odd to me. – Max Jun 30 '14 at 18:01
  • How can you see something anecdotally? If you mean you hear stories, you're not seeing but hearing; and you're not even hearing the event, you're hearing rumors of the event. Probly it's a bad choice of adverb in the first place; just because it's an adverb doesn't mean it lacks complex meaning and usage. In science, anecdotal evidence means 'no real evidence'; it's a guess, at best, and a serious putdown at worst. – John Lawler Jun 30 '14 at 18:15
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    @John: OP's example doesn't sound "off" to me. I understand we see [blah] as pretty much equivalent to [blah] occurs in this context. It can thus be seen (?!) as an "assertion" that [blah] is true, so it's not unreasonable to "temper" that assertion with expressions like anecdotally, it seems that, apparently, I think, etc. Not hard-and-fast or "scientific", obviously, but I'm guessing that's the whole point of the "hedge". – FumbleFingers Jun 30 '14 at 18:33
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    @JohnLawler Good enough. The point is that it applies to the entire sentence, not to the verb or whatnot. I guess that is what you were saying from the start. Sorry. – tchrist Jun 30 '14 at 20:19

I don’t know what you mean by “a proper adverb”.

On Dictionaries and Software

If you are concerned that it may not be found in this or that dictionary, this means nothing, since derived forms that are generated by productive derivational morphology are never fully enumerated in any dictionary. The absence of a word from a dictionary never proves anything about its validity as a word.

The OED has an entry for the adjective anecdotal and another for the adverb anecdotically. I would rather read anecdotally than anecdotically, as a matter of personal preference.

I think what you are seeing is simply a difference in how Chrome applies derivational morphology, or perhaps fails to do so, within its spellchecking algorithm. Other browsers give different results. So for example in Safari, anecdotally though absent from the OED triggers no red squiggles, but anecdotically in contrast does so, even though it is present in the OED.

I’m therefore guessing this is nothing but a software issue, not an actual English issue at all.

On Syntactic Analysis

On the other hand, if your concern here is how to analyse it syntactically, then you need to understand that this is an example of a sentence adverb, not an adverb of manner or an intensifier. That means that it applies not to a single verb, adjective, other adverb, or preposition, but rather to the entire sentence as a single syntactic constituent.

What’s happening here is that you have an adverbial adjunct, which in fact is actually a type of disjunct.

Here are similar examples of disjuncts from the cited Wikipedia article:

  • Honestly, I didn't do it. (Meaning "I'm honest when I say I didn't do it" rather than "I didn't do it in an honest way.")
  • Fortunately for you, I have it right here.
  • In my opinion, the green one is better.
  • Frankly, this whole paragraph needs work.
  • Interestingly, the comment made for a great topic of its own.
  • Luckily, the amount of sugar the recipe called for was in stock in the pantry.
  • Clearly, the mail did not come today due to it being a national holiday.
  • Unfortunately, by the time she reached the bus stop, the bus had already left.

The sentence adverb is clearly a grammatical structure to native speakers, which is about as close to “proper” as you are going to get.

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    Interesting. I wouldn't have expected, based simply on my analysis of the word forms, that "adjunct" could be a subset of "disjunct". That's a question in itself. – Matt Gutting Jun 30 '14 at 19:17
  • @tchrist: You left out the controversial one – hopefully. – Scott Jun 30 '14 at 21:37

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