Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Split Infinitives (3).

Split Infinitives (3). Today: Justified Splits. A number of infinitives are best split. Perhaps the most famous is from the 1960s television series Star Trek, in which the opening voice-over included this phrase: "to boldly go where no man [or, in the revival of the 1980s and 1990s, 'where no one'] has gone before." The phrase sounds inevitable partly because it is so familiar, but also because the adverb most naturally bears the emphasis, not the verb "go." And that example is not a rarity. Consider: "She expects to more than double her profits next year." We cannot merely move the adverbial phrase in that sentence — to "fix" the split, we would have to eliminate the infinitive, as by writing "She expects that her profits will more than double next year," thereby giving the sentence a different nuance. (The woman seems less responsible for the increase.) Again, though, knowing when to split an infinitive requires a good ear and a keen eye. Otherwise, the ability to distinguish — the ability Fowler mentioned — is not attainable. "To flatly state," for example, suggests something different from "to state flatly." In the sentences that follow, unsplitting the infinitive would either create an awkwardness or change the sense: o "With no ready templates available — the only other 'nearby' track, in Vancouver, was judged too dark, static and simplistic — the two had to pretty well make up Speed Zone Go Kart Raceway from scratch." Alan Kellogg, "Entrepreneurs Get Checkered Flag for Go-Cart Venture," Edmonton J., 11 Apr. 1997, at B1. o "Issues that most feminists support, such as abortion rights and equal treatment for gays and lesbians, seem to directly contradict Christian teachings." Cristina Smith, "Women of the Cloth," News & Observer (Raleigh), 3 Oct. 1997, at E1. Distinguishing these examples from poor splits in previous days' tips may not be easy for all readers. Those who find it difficult might advantageously avoid all splits. Next: Awkwardness Caused by Avoiding Splits. For information about the Language-Change Index, click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: "It is no wonder that so many capable business and professional people have complexes about written communications. They have been brainwashed into thinking that writing competence is a function mostly of grammar, punctuation, syntax, and the like. Four points off for every split infinitive! Two demerits for a misplaced adverb! What a tragedy." David W. Ewing, Writing for Results in Business, Government, and the Professions 16 (1974).
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