Grammar tip: To quickly confuse or not to confuse

One way writers can confuse readers is to use a split infinitive.

An infinitive is the word to with a verb, as in to build (e.g. Ron helped to build the house.). Sometimes this infinitive is split, however, by placing words between to and the verb, such as to quickly build. This is called a split infinitive.

Writing Ron helped to quickly build the house can be a confusing sentence. Did Ron offer his help quickly or was he involved in ensuring the house was built with haste? Moving the adverb quickly so the infinitive is not split would help immensely. If the former is meant, then write Ron quickly helped build the house. If the latter is meant, then restructure the sentence to say Ron helped ensure they quickly built the house.

Not all split infinitives necessarily lead to confusion. One of the most famous sayings of our time, to boldly go where no man has gone before, is a split infinitive, after all, and every one knows the narrator means his crew is going boldly.