Among writers, the split infinitive is one of the most controversial style issues.
It’s not a grammatical issue. Simple agreement is part of being grammatically correct.
We write: ‘I like you’ not ‘I likes you.’
But the grammatical rule books vacillate when it comes to the split infinitive.
‘To boldly go where no man has gone before.’
What would you write in place of the most famous split infinitive of all time?
I’m not a TV writer so I won’t venture into outer space with our friends at Star Trek but I’m a direct response copywriter so I’ll discuss the split infinitive as it relates to sales and persuasion…and conversion. To me, shunting a clause or an adverb in the middle of the infinitive is unnecessary 99.9% of the time.
If I wrote ‘to boldly go’ in copy, I would replace the split infinitive with a more vivid verb.
I might write...
- To venture
- To travel
- To globetrot
- To voyage
- To explore
In general, a verb like ‘to go’ is weak and, even in direct response copywriting, strong verbs make for better copy.
I’m always finding ways to reduce word count in direct response copy and will always work to use two words instead of three. Yet another reason to avoid the split infinitive.
Now, in non-commercial writing, I always avoid the split infinitive. I hate it.
BUT in direct response copywriting, if a split test shows that a headline with a split infinitive beats a headline without a split infinitive, then I’m all for the split infinitive. Even if the stylist in me is squirming a touch.
I'm a direct response copywriter based in Charlotte, North Carolina. I specialize in providing copy and content for the direct marketing environment for clients around the world. Enter your info to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or contact me here.