A Guide to Split Infinitives

A Guide to Split Infinitives

Whether you are writing a novel or a simple short story, the infancy stages of your piece will not be perfect. It is also a safe bet that one of the biggest grammatical headaches, the split infinitive, has been a thorn in your side. Don’t worry, you are not the only writer to enter split infinitive hell!

If you paid attention in your high school grammar class, then you know what a split infinitive is. However, just in case you’re a little dusty on grammatical definitions, here’s a short review:

When to Use Split Infinitives

A split infinitive is when you add a word, particularly an adverb, between the word ‘to’ and a verb. An example of this would be if you wrote a sentence with ‘to boldly go and tell that bully what I really think of him.’ The word ‘boldly’ sits between ‘to’ and the verb ‘go’, creating a split infinitive.

How and when will you ever use an infinitive?

First, get the idea out of your head that the use of split infinitives is bad, and you should never entertain them in your writing. Although in the back of your head you can hear your grammar teacher lecturing, you should know that it is sometimes okay to use split infinitives.

According to the Grammarist, there is no set rule against split infinitives in English.

However, before you paint your blank pages with split infinitive just remember that it should be done in moderation. Consider it that double decker cheeseburger dripping with grease that you know you shouldn’t eat, but do every now and again.

If the adverb doesn’t work anywhere else or the sentence needs further explanation, then by all means split those babies up. If you are writing a fiction piece, a split infinitive can be used to express a thought or speak to the voice of a character.

When to Avoid Split Infinitives

Hopefully, you took note of the word moderation. Here are a few reasons why splitting infinitives can be messy when you are writing:

  1. When moving or placing the adverb is unnecessary.
  2. Split infinitives can make long and complicated sentences.
  3. The split infinitive makes the sentence sound awkward.

As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t use split infinitives in professional writing, especially if you are pitching an idea to an editor or publishing firm. Not everyone in the writing industry agrees with using split infinitives, and that can overshadow your work.

Deciding Whether to Use Split Infinitives

Some writers are starting to ax the rule and are splitting infinitives all over the page. They’ve stirred a great controversy over the grammatical humdrum.

When it comes to writing, the split infinitive is a tricky grammatical structure. It’s okay if you prefer to avoid it like the plague and not to use them in your writing. However, don’t be afraid to explore them and play around with sentence structures. If it feels (and reads) right to you, then go with it.

The best thing to do when determining whether the split infinitive is a good idea is to discuss the grammatical nuisance with professional editors and other writers. They can speak to what the industry as a whole thinks about various grammar and syntactical styles.

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