Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Remember to never split an infinitive

This is the last of the William Safire writing “rules” for me. I’ve had such fun considering them. We all know how bogus this one is, right? Every since Star Trek: To boldly go where no (man/one) has gone before. The latter, “one,” for Next Generation, since they finally realized that there were women along and they hadn’t been there before either.

I’ve read that the origin of rules like this stem from Latin scholars, or maybe just snobs. It’s impossible to split an infinitive in Latin, since they are only one word. Esse, amare, videre, regere, audire (to be, to love, to see, to rule, to hear). Okay, but just because you can’t split them in Latin, doesn’t mean you can’t split them in English. Ours are TWO words. You can always split two words. I’m always eager to find places to happily break this rule. Which, it seems, never was a rule.*

Go ahead, cleave those infinitives, if it makes sense in your context!

axe photo from


  1. Thanks for permission. One of my thesis readers told me to get the split infinitives out of my draft. That's the first time I'd been told I had any. My adviser said he hadn't noticed them, but whatever. So I fixed them. Now when I write, it's one to-split-or-not-to-split decision after another. And every time the old Star Trek comes on, I think, "To go boldly," which is just too much grammar to be healthy. (Now I'm thinking, The correct word is "healthful." Too much English teaching.)

  2. I figure that some need splitting, some don't. It's a matter of sounding natural and being readable.