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.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.