Grammar Rules: Split Infinitives | Writing Forward

Here’s my take on this article:

I agree with this post: what to do with infinitives is a judgment call. Some observations:
In the 18th century, pundits thought English needed to be more like Latin, a “more mature” language. You can’t split an infinitive in Latin (nor in Romance languages like French or Spanish–such languages have one-word infinitives). But since English needed to emulate Latin, its two-word infinitive needed to be treated like a Latin one-word infinitive. So there. Obviously English is a very different language from Latin–it’s not a Romance language at all, it’s Germanic–so following a rule meant for a Romance language doesn’t make sense.
Second, one reason “to boldly go” sounds so good is that placing “boldly” within the infinitive creates an iambic phrase: ././ Iambic is the “natural” meter for English; it’s Shakespeare’s meter, for example. It just plain has a ring.
So place your adverbs wherever you think they create that ring. (And don’t eschew adverbs universally, either. They have important roles in prose.)



Filed under correct grammar for writers of fiction, Editing your novel, grammar rules for writers, Learning to write, Myths and Truths for writers, self editing for fiction writers, style for writers, Writing, writing novels

3 responses to “Grammar Rules: Split Infinitives | Writing Forward

  1. Silver Threading

    Thank you for sharing. I wish I had seen your excellent comments so that I could have shared those! When it comes to English-correctness it is so easy to forget the things that matter, like how the words sound and the rhythm they create. Thanks again! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • I get in trouble sometimes for breaking “rules,” but I find that sometimes I can create interesting effects by tweaking them. A really good resource for making decisions about supposed rules (like cutting all instances of “There is” or “It is”) is Martha Kolln’s Rhetorical Grammar (I think in later editions she has a co-author). It’s a textbook, and therefore expensive, but you can get used copies of older editions are reasonable prices. I love it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Silver Threading

        What great information. Thank you. I thought I was a fairly good writer until I started to realize that I twist up the English language every chance I get. That made me pause and choose my words. Thanks again! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

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