Monday, November 8, 2010

A Guide to Author Jargon for the Reader - 67

The split infinitive

an American grammatical error common enough, because it colloquially scans. This is when the root verb form (to be, to see, to fall) has an additional word, mostly an adverb between the to and the verb. ie. to finely see, to gloriously rule. Although it is probably good to follow this rule, because American editors and reviewers will have kittens, the truth is, it was an acceptable form of speech in England, especially among the Victorian writers. I have seen cases where a split infinite has driven a reviewer to a psychotic railing at an author, consigning the work to the fifth circle of hell. Still, der rules are der rules, even if it is some American school marm concoction. Stylewise, using the adverb is more pernicious. Better to split a nail than to sow a pernicious adverb.

Edward C. Patterson

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