January 16, 2007
To Split, or Not To Split? (or To Not Split?)
In Stephen Wilbers' "Effective Writing" column (Star Tribune, 1-15-07), he wrote about split infinitives. My eighth grade take-no-prisoners English grammar teacher, Miss Mary Buckingham, taught us NEVER to split infinitives. (NOT to never split infinitives.) Well, Wilbers takes a more moderate stance, which I follow in my own writing and appreciate. What I didn't know was the origin of the no-split-infinitives policy. He noted that the origin of this rule was with Robert Loweth, who tried to import his knowledge of Latin into the English language. "Because the infinitive is a single word in Latin, and therefore cannot be split, he reasoned (wrongly, to my mind), it should not be split in English. Before he wrote his unfortunate book, few English speakers gave it a thought." I'll never feel guilty about splitting an infinitive again - if it makes sense to do so. And I'll be a bit more tolerant of my students' usage as well. To quote Wilbers' conclusion today: "So we can say to boldly go in good consencience."
Thanks, Mr. Wilbers!