There’s a lot of confusion about what’s known as ‘split infinitives.
Whenever I hear the word ‘infinitive’ I can’t help thinking of Toy Story and Buzz Lightyear… ‘To Infinity and Beyond….’
Maybe it’s the sense of escape and adventure that we writers and editors crave, as we sit tapping away on our keyboards, day in, day out.
Infinitives, though, have a more direct role in our work as editors. They are a grammatical term for the pure form of the verb.
Verbs come in different forms and tenses. Infinitives are the simple versions. The mark 1, basic, starter-pack version, if you like. So the infinitive of eating is to eat. For blogging, it’s to blog.
The word to is the marker and blog is the pure infinitive.
Now a split infinitive is when you place a word – usually an adverb – between the marker and the pure infinitive. To brilliantly blog, or to rapidly blog.
Perhaps the most famous split infinitive is Star Trek’s To boldly go where no man has gone before…
So what’s wrong with split infinitives?
Well, the answer is nothing.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries some scholars suggested that as split infinitives were not used in Latin, they should not be acceptable in English.
Over the years disdain for splitting infinitives grew and became accepted wisdom. Yet there is no rule or law saying they can’t be used. Sometimes, in fact, they make the sentence a lot clearer.
So if you want to use split infinitives, feel free. The only reason not to is that it may catch the eye of a boss, a client or another picky person who has been brought up with the belief that splitting infinitives is a grave offence against the English language.
It’s silly really, but we all do things to avoid ill-founded condemnation.
So be brave and carry on splitting your infinitives, or should I say continue to infinitely split them, if you want to.