Publisher decides to boldly advocate the split infinitive

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The Independent Online
Oxford University Press has decided to boldly go where no publisher has gone before and advocate the use of the split infinitive.

According to the publisher's Guide To Plain English, infinitives can be split, sentences can begin with "but" and paragraphs can consist of only one sentence.

But the move is not without controversy.

Dr Bernard Lamb, chairman of the London branch of the Queen's English Society, criticised the move. He said writers need a thorough understanding of the rules before breaking them for dramatic effect.

"Splitting an infinitive is not an absolute sin but it often sounds clumsy. I would only do it as last resort and if all the other alternatives were worse," he said. "Occasionally people do deliberately split them for effect - 'to boldly go' is a common example. But I would certainly not recommend people to split infinitives regularly.

"I would say much the same about starting sentences with 'but'. It gives a very jerky effect. Occasionally it is all right because you want someone to sit up and take notice."

Dr Lamb also criticised one sentence paragraphs which he said look "rather strange". "Journalists often use them because they are afraid of losing the readers attention," he said.

Martin Cutts, the guide's author and research director of the Plain Language Commission, defended the move and said writers should be wary of becoming enslaved by "non-rules" like splitting infinitives.

"If you think a sentence will be more emphatic, clear or rhythmical, split your infinitive. There is no reason in logic or grammar for avoiding it," he said.

"Many good authors over the last few hundred years have ignored the [but] myth. Jane Austen begins sentences with 'but' on almost every page, and occasionally uses 'and' in the same position."