A split infinitive is sometimes defined as a type of tmesis.
"I think the evidence is conclusive enough," says editor Norman Lewis: "it is perfectly correct to consciously split an infinitive whenever such an act increases the strength or clarity of your sentence" (Word Power Made Easy, 1991).
- What Is a "Split Infinitive" and What's Wrong With It?
- Exercise in Identifying Infinitive Phrases
- Grammatical Error
- Prescriptive Grammar
Examples and Observations:
- "I was wise enough to never grow up while fooling most people into believing I had."
- "It seemed that he had caught [the fish] himself, years ago, when he was quite a lad; not by any art or skill, but by that unaccountable luck that appears to always wait upon a boy when he plays the wag from school."
(Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat, 1889)
- "The only rationale for condemning the [split infinitive] construction is based on a false analogy with Latin. The thinking is that because the Latin infinitive is a single word, the equivalent English construction should be treated as if it were a single unit. But English is not Latin, and distinguished writers have split infinitives without giving it a thought. Noteworthy splitters include John Donne, Daniel Defoe, George Eliot, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, William Wordsworth, and Willa Cather. Still, those who dislike the construction can usually avoid it without difficulty."
(The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, 2000)
- "News of the government’s plan to on average halve pay for the top 25 employees of firms that took two bailouts ricocheted down Wall Street on Wednesday."
(Eric Dash, "A New Challenge for 2 Ailing Banks." The New York Times, Oct. 21, 2009)
- "Hostility to the practice of splitting infinitives developed in the nineteenth century. A magazine article dating from 1834 may well be the first published condemnation of it. A large number of similar prohibitions followed. The first to call it a 'split infinitive' was a contributor to the magazine Academy in 1897."
(Henry Hitchings, The Language Wars. John Murray, 2011)
- "The split-infinitive rule may represent mindless prescriptivism's greatest height. It was foreign. (It was almost certainly based on the inability to split infinitives in Latin and Greek, since they consist of one word only.) It had been routinely violated by the great writers in English; one 1931 study found split infinitives in English literature from every century, beginning with the fourteenth-century epic poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight . . .."
(Robert Lane Greene, You Are What You Speak. Delacorte, 2011)
- "The split infinitive is another trick of rhetoric in which the ear must be quicker than the handbook. Some infinitives seem to improve on being split, just as a stick of round stovewood does. 'I cannot bring myself to really like the fellow.' The sentence is relaxed, the meaning is clear, the violation is harmless and scarcely perceptible. Put the other way, the sentence becomes stiff, needlessly formal. A mater of ear."
(William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style, 3rd ed. Macmillan, 1979)
- "Would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split."