To boldly go: the case for the split infinitive

Kirk“Don’t split an infinitive” is one of the most quoted ‘rules’ in English grammar.   ”To boldly go where no man has gone before” is perhaps the most famous example of the broken rule in action.

Not everyone agrees that this is an absolute or even a useful rule to follow.  The copywriters at Polon put it down as a myth of grammar:

“Some people say you should never put anything between the to and the stem because this splits the infinitive. But they are wrong. The idea that there is any kind of rule saying you can’t split infinitives is a grammatical myth.”

Terence Denman in ‘How not to write‘ agrees, putting the split infinitive ‘rule’ down as “nonsense” because a rigid enforcement of the rule can make our sentences awkward or ambiguous.  You might not want to be too quick to embrace the split infinitive though.  As Terence points out:

“the minute we write one the language police will dive in with their red pens and smirks of superiority.  Because some people have no other role in life but to spot (to gleefully spot?) split infinitives.  It’s in their job descriptions…”

Even if it’s not a rule you might well find people telling you otherwise - and in my book it’s worth ‘flagging’ as one to think about. To be aware of the effect your choice of words might have.

It comes back to knowing who’s reading your writing and and who and what you are writing for.  And if your clients, your peers, your boss are part of the red pen wielding brigade… you might just want to keep going boldly…

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