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Split Infinitives

Any Star Trek fan will instantly recognize the phrase “to boldly go where no one has gone before.” While its usage has settled into the popular consciousness, recognize that boldly splits to and go, and results in a split infinitive.

INCORRECT

  • She wished to greedily devour all that was left of the cookies.
  • We explored the library to gladly discover a favorite new book.
  • I picked up the stack of photos to carefully sort them.

CORRECT

According to some editors, adverbs are the enemy of good writing. This choice is up to you, of course; should you include adverbs in your work, less is more. In the case of to greedily devour, devour already implies greed. When one discovers a favorite new book, gladness is already implied. If you must sort photos, sort them carefully; the adverb appears at the end of the sentence.

MORE TO KNOW

An infinitive is a verb in its unconjugated form; i.e., to think, to do, to explore. We use them in sentences paired with other verbs, such as “I ventured [verb 1] out in the snow to shop [verb 2, infinitive].” When we split that infinitive in two, we place an adverb between the to and the verb, as in “I ventured out in the snow to [brazenly] shop.”

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