Syntax: Split Infinitives

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Split Infinitive:

  • What Is a Split Infinitive? A split infinitive involves placing an adverb or other word/phrase between the word “to” and an infinitive verb (e.g. “go”): “to boldly go”. Historically, there was a rule against splitting infinitives. But the reasons for such a rule are antiquated and have no application to today’s legal-writing landscape.

Rule: Split the infinitive when the resulting sentence is clearer.

Example #1:

  • NOT “He agreed promptly to settle the lawsuit once he received our offer.”
  • BUT “He agreed to promptly settle the lawsuit once he received our offer.”
  • Why: In the first version, can you tell what was done promptly? Was it his agreement? Or was it the settlement? Avoid this ambiguity by splitting the infinitive.

Example #2:

  • NOT “Plaintiff failed properly to allege damages.”
  • BUT “Plaintiff failed to properly allege damages.”
  • Why: The reason is self-evident: the first version sounds awkward, clunky, and nonsensical.

For more on split infinitives, click here.

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