The Definitive Infinitive

I thought I was on to something when I read works from seasoned authors which included split infinitives and thought, “Ah ha! I know something you don’t, split infinitives are wrong.” Turns out I was the wrong one.

An infinitive is a two-part verb form such as ‘to walk’ or ‘to see’ or ‘to work’.  A split infinitive is when another word, usually an adverb, appears between the two words. The most well-known example is the line from Star Trek, “To boldly go.”  It could just as easily have been written “To go boldly” and the split infinitive would be avoided. For years, I thought using split infinitives was incorrect English. I was certain there was a rule against them. However, I have discovered recently this rule apparently has never been very firm.

Whenever I’m uncertain about something having to do with writing, I go to my Chicago Manual of Style. The footnote below the fourteenth edition paragraph 2.98 says the thirteenth edition regarded split infinitives under “errors and infelicities” but also called their use a “debatable error.” However, the fourteenth edition now refers to their use as a “legitimate form of expression.” It appears the split infinitive is becoming more ‘proper’ as time goes by.

So there. With regard to split infinitives, it seems I was wr–  wro–  ahm, wrong. If you are going to keep up with proper writing practices, you have to be willing to eat a little humble pie every now and then.

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