Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Split Infinitives (2).

Split Infinitives (2). Today: Splits to Be Avoided. If a split is easily fixed by putting the adverb at the end of the phrase and the meaning remains the same, then avoiding the split is the best course. Split: "It is not necessary to here enlarge upon those points." Unsplit: "It is not necessary to enlarge upon those points here." Such capriciously split infinitives only jar the reader. Similar examples turn up frequently — e.g.: "Maybe the intense distrust many voters feel toward their government institutions have led them to almost automatically vote [read to vote almost automatically] against anything the Legislature supports." Marty Latz, "Democrats Take Ideas Straight to Voters for 'Wins,'" Ariz. Republic/Phoenix Gaz., 30 May 1995, at B7. (Notice also the subject-verb disagreement: "distrust" is the subject, and the verb should be "has.") Wide splits are generally to be avoided, especially with piled-on adverbs — e.g.: "We encourage both spouses to utilize the best efforts to understandingly, sympathetically, and professionally try to work out a compromise." (A possible revision: We encourage both spouses to try to work out a compromise understandingly, sympathetically, and professionally.) But sometimes — for effect — they may be justified: "If there is no other way to make our point, we ought to boldly go ahead and split. We should also be willing to sometimes so completely, in order to gain a particular effect, split the infinitive as to practically but quite consciously run the risk of leaving the 'to' as far behind as the last runner in the London Marathon. Grammar is made for man, not man for grammar." "To Split or Not to Split," Times (London), 1 Aug. 1995, at 15. With correlative conjunctions, a split infinitive simply displays carelessness — e.g.: "There are already enough problems with trying to get all parents to either make sure their children are in car seats or in seat belts." Sharon K. Woulfe, "Most Should Keep Air Bags On," Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.), 19 Nov. 1997, at A12. (A possible revision: "There are already enough problems with trying to get all parents to make sure their children are protected by either car seats or seat belts.") Next: Justified Splits. For information about the Language-Change Index, click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: "I'd rather split infinitives than split hairs." Mary Newton Brudner, The Grammar Lady x (2000).
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