Formerly of Maine, presently of Brooklyn. I work for Lincoln Center.
In formal contexts, avoid splitting infinitives.
The rule against split infinitives is antiquated and perhaps even a little wrongheaded. It seems to stem from a belief that Latin is the purest language, and because Latin infinitives are one word and cannot be split, English infinitives should not be split, either.
The authoritative texts generally approve of split infinitives, and have done so for a while: the Chicago Manual has found split infinitives acceptable since the 13th edition in 1983, and Strunk and White provisionally endorsed the practice as early as 1959.
That said, our goal with all matters of style should be unobtrusiveness; we should call as little attention to these decisions as possible. Because split infinitives are jarring to many careful readers despite all the above, avoid them where there is a graceful alternative. Where a split is unavoidable (or even elegant), accept it.
This whole thing has been a labor of love.
A few years ago, I was dismayed by one of The Times’s periodic reboots of the Magazine (the one, I believe, that made it smaller and ditched the too-thin-for-that-paper but lovely Stempely Garamond). I wrote them the below.
To the Editor:
I seem to have less of a penchant for change than The Times. Indeed – why write a new letter when an old one will do?
Almost twenty years ago, The Times printed this correspondence from one Patricia Escobar of Los Angeles: “Now you’ve done it. You have blown away the last vestiges of familiarity in this unstable world by changing the format of the Magazine.”
The world in 2011 is no more stable than it was in 1993, Patricia, but perhaps there is familiarity to be found in the fact of yet another new Sunday magazine.
I’m much happier about next week’s redesign.
The special 25th anniversary edition of Graceland, one of my all-time favorite albums, has a fascinating ten-minute piece where Paul Simon describes the process of writing the title track. Well worth a listen for his process and also to hear the musical components added one by one. Play it below in Spotify or click the headline link to find the track in iTunes.