We left you dangling on whether or not to split infinitives when writing your business communcations. We conclude today with the straight dope on the subject.
Splitting an infinitive (that is, inserting an adverb between to and the verb) should be avoided because (a) it typically produces an awkward construction and (b) the adverb usually functions more effectively in another location.
- WEAK: It was impossible to even see a foot ahead.
- BETTER: It was impossible to see even a foot ahead.
- WEAK: He always tries to carefully do the work.
- BETTER: He always tries to do the work carefully.
However, split the infinitive when alternative locations of the adverb produce an awkward or weakly constructed sentence.
A. Before splitting an infinitive, first try to place the adverb after the object of the infinitive. In many instances the adverb functions most effectively in that location.
- You ought to review these plans thoroughly.
(BETTER THAN: You ought to thoroughly review these plans.)
- I need to make the decision quickly.
(BETTER THAN: I need to quickly make the decision.)
B. If step A does not produce an effective sentence, try to locate the adverb directly before or directly after the infinitive. In some cases the adverb functions effectively in this position; in other cases the resulting sentence is awkward.
CONFUSING: I want you to supervise the work that is to be done personally. (When the object of the infinitive is long or involved, it is difficult to place the adverb after the object without creating confusion. Here personally seems to modify to be done when in fact it should modify to supervise.
AWKWARD: I want you to supervise personally the work that is to be done.
GOOD: I want you personally to supervise the work that is to be done.
C. If steps A and B fail to produce an effective sentence, try splitting the infinitive. If a good sentence results, keep it; if not, try rewording the sentence.
CONFUSING: I want you to consider Jenkins' proposal to handle all our deliveries carefully. (When carefully is located after the complete object, it no longer clearly refers to to consider.)
AWKWARD: I want you carefully to consider Jenkins' proposal to handle all our deliveries.
AWKWARD: I want you to consider carefully Jenkins' proposal to handle all our deliveries.
GOOD: I want you to carefully consider Jenkins' proposal ...
D. When an infinitive consists of to be plus a past or present participle of another verb, inserting an adverb before the participle is not considered splitting an infinitive. Nevertheless, in many such sentences it may be possible to locate the adverb to better advantage elsewhere in the sentence.
- These plans need to be thoroughly reviewed.
- Claude appears to be continually turning up with last-minute objections to any decision I make.
NOTE: By the same token, it is perfectly acceptable to position an adverb between a helping verb and a past or present participle. It is even acceptable to position an adverb within the elements of a helping verb.
- This new technology has already been effectively applied in many industries.
- I hear that Martha has been seriously considering early retirement.
Source: The Gregg Reference Manual.