When freezing rain fell in the Northeast last week, schools and businesses either closed for the day or ran on a delayed schedule. As I listened to a local radio show talk about the closings, cancellations, and delays, I heard over and over again the disc jockey announce that some schools would start at 10:30 a.m. this morning and some businesses would open at 9:30 a.m. this morning.
It seems to me that I hear this particular grammar error more frequently now than in the past. I don’t know why, and it doesn’t really matter; I’m just here to clear things up.
A.M. means ante meridiem, which is Latin for before noon; therefore, saying The school will open at 10:30 a.m. this morning is redundant since it means The school will open at 10:30 before noon this morning. Is there any other 10:30 before noon than the one that occurs in the morning? Is there a 10:30 before noon in the evening or afternoon? You could say The school will open at 10:30 a.m. or The school will open at 10:30 this morning or The school will open at 10:30 a.m. today. With so many ways to say it, saying it correctly shouldn’t be a problem any longer.
The same could be said for something such as Businesses will close at 10 p.m. tonight. P.M. means post meridiem, which is Latin for after noon, so this sentence is a redundancy. It says Businesses will close at 10:00 after noon tonight. Is there any other 10:00 after the hour of noon than the one that occurs at night? Is there a 10:00 after the hour of noon in the morning?
By the way, the abbreviation a.m. has several meanings, some of which are distinguished by whether it is capitalized. For ante meridiem, the correct spelling is with lowercase letters, a.m., since it is an abbreviation for ante meridiem, not Ante Meridiem. You also need the periods to distinguish between meanings (for example, A.M., Am, am). The same is true for p.m.