In the world of grammar rules, we’ve all heard that “split infinitives” are as unappealing as split ends.
But what does that mean, anyway? What is an infinitive and why should I care?
My grammar book defines the infinitive as a plain form of a verb plus “to.” Infinitives and infinitive phrases serve as adjectives, adverbs or nouns.
Example: To design a mall is to create an artificial environment. (two noun phrases)
Malls are designed to make shoppers feel safe. (adverb phrase)
The environment supports the impulse to shop. (adjective)
A split infinitive puts an adverb between the two parts of the infinitive. For example, Star Trek’s famous line: “to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Or: She decided to generously pour scotch into the stew.
It really is not wrong to split your infinitives, but when in doubt, don’t. Take a closer look at your sentence. Does it read better splitting the infinitive or not?
My example about the stew would read better as: She decided to pour scotch generously into the stew. Or, to avoid that dreaded “ly” word: She decided to pour a generous dollop of scotch into the stew.
There are many ways to rewrite your sentences to make them stronger. If splitting an infinitive does that, go for it. If it’s awkward, change it.
How do you feel about split infinitives?
A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, has recently won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.