Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Split Infinitives (4).

Split Infinitives (4). Today: Awkwardness Caused by Avoiding Splits. Occasionally, sticking to the old "rule" about split infinitives leads to gross phrasing. The following sentences illustrate clumsy attempts to avoid splitting the infinitive. In the first example, the adverb may be placed more naturally than it is without splitting the infinitive; in the second and third examples, a split is called for: o "Linda Dishman . . . said Monday that Mahony was attempting unfairly to deflect attention away from what she said was illegal demolition of a city-protected landmark." Larry Gordon, "Battle over Cathedral's Fate Intensifies," L.A. Times, 4 June 1996, at A1. (What was unfair: the attempting or the deflecting? Read either "was unfairly attempting to deflect" or "was attempting to unfairly deflect.") o "Democrats fought for an increase in the minimum wage and hope quickly to pass [read ‘hope to quickly pass’] an expansion of the family leave act." Judy Packer-Tursman, "Comp-Time Proposal Polarizes 2 Parties," Pitt. Post-Gaz., 5 Feb. 1997, at C7. o "The ordinance is not expected immediately to solve [read 'expected to immediately solve'] problems with the throbbing, low-frequency bass notes from a local club in the Cromwell Square Shopping Center." Stacy Wong, "In Cromwell, Votes on Noise, Large-Pet Laws," Hartford Courant, 15 May 1997, at B1. For information about the Language-Change Index, click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: "Let the breeze of common sense blow away the mists of a presumptuous authority, dispel the heavy fog of pedantry. The split infinitive is not a violation of literary morality. It is not even a blemish until it is grossly overdone." Edward T. Teall, Putting Words to Work 184 (1940).
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