I regularly receive information from one of my favorite charities on how I can help through volunteer opportunities and donations. I recently received this in my email and it made ME giggle, so I knew it was destined to be a Grammar Giggle.
Were you confused too? I just have to wonder how many bras, shapewear garments, and sleepwear items they expect to sell to my charity. Since this week’s blog topic was split infinitives, I couldn’t resist. The last sentence in the email would have been much clearer if it had said they “will make a $2 donation to Charity for each . . . .” I have changed the names to protect my charity and the department store because my charity could use the donations . . . and a proofreader (and yes I have volunteered!).
Infinitives are a type of verb with the word to in front of it. For instance to run or to leave. Although common practice dictates that it is OK to split infinitives, be careful that your sentence makes sense. Using a split infinitive can change the meaning of your entire sentence or leave your reader wondering what you really mean. For example:
Mary decided to quickly leave the party.
While correct, this sentence is a bit unclear. Try moving the offending adverb (quickly) before or after the infinitive (to leave).
Mary decided quickly to leave the party.
Now you know that Mary made a quick decision to leave.
Mary decided to leave the party quickly.
Here Mary left the party quickly. Keeping the infinitive phrase together helps both sentences make sense. However, one of the most famous phrases of all time for all my Trekkie friends was a split infinitive – “To boldly go where no man has gone before” – where “boldly” splits the infinitive “to go.” Using either “To go boldly” or “Boldly to go” doesn’t have the same impact as “To boldly go” for Star Trek purposes. Sometimes it just works.
It is important to be cognizant of what your sentence will mean to your reader. Watch for Wednesday’s Grammar Giggle, which is a perfect example of a split infinitive making a sentence have an entirely different meaning than what is intended.