My post on "The split verbs mystery", which was stimulated by a comment from Alan Gunn, in turn stimulated a couple of informative reactions from copy editors.
John McIntyre verified ("Oh, keep your peeves to yourself") that a prejudice against "split verbs" has afflicted not only many law review editors but also some journalists:
I’m particularly irritated by the journalistic taboo against putting an adverb between the auxiliary and main verb — writing always has written instead of has always written. It is not, strictly speaking, an error of grammar, but it is awkward and non-idiomatic syntax. If I have time to change it while editing, I do so, and no one has ever complained. (And if you read over has ever complained just now without finding it amiss, you see how idiomatic English is written.)
Hillary Rodham Clinton, who ran so closely to Obama in the primary, was never seriously considered, said two officials involved with the search.
and notes that a verson in his local paper that was edited to read
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton never was seriously considered, said two officials involved with the search.
A quick Google News search shows that this version showed up in the Seattle Times as well.
(The funny thing about this case is that the verbal sequence is *still* split, since seriously was left in place.)
When i worked on a news magazine, the word "also" was always placed before the verb:
"The company also will release a new product…"
I started querying every editor or reporter who handed me a story w/ that in there. To a person, they said, "You are not supposed to split the infinitive."
And "Marc in Chicago" agrees:
Over the years, I've had colleagues edit my "will generally be," "has often been" or similar constructions to "generally will be," "often has been" (or the like), which, to my ear, sound awkward and unnatural.
When questioned about what they found wrong with the original, the answer has always been, "You're not supposed to split an infinitive."
All this makes it more plausible that the mid-20th-century dip in relative frequency of medial adverb placement in <always> has <always> been <always> (see the tables here) really did reflect a period of prescriptive influence, however misguided.
Arnold Zwicky has suggested the term zombie rule for this kind of thing:
[N]o matter how many times, and how thoroughly, it is executed by authorities …, it continues its wretched life-in-death in style sheets and grammar checkers and the like.
Or in the minds of some law students and copy editors.
As John and Fev pointed out — and as James Lindgren argued at length in the review I quoted in my original post — nearly everyone who has written about this particular case, even the most stalwart "prescriptivists", thinks that the concern about "split verbs" is silly and groundless. Does anyone know of any source advising against placing adverbs in the middle of such verbal sequences, besides some editions of the Texas Manual on Style? Does anyone know when it first appeared there, and who was responsible for introducing it, and what their motivation or reasoning was?
Or was there some genuine underlying historical change involved?