No-excuses split infinitive in The Economist

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I have grumbled on several previous occasions about the Economist's stubborn adherence to a brainless policy that its editors maintain: no adjuncts are to be located between the to and the verb in an infinitival clause, lest readers should get annoyed. That is, the magazine's style guide insists that the "split infinitive" construction should be avoided even though it is well known that the rule barring it is a 19th-century fiction and there is no serious rational ground for practicing the syntactic self-denial in question. The reason I grumble is that the more notable institutions like magazines or publishing houses insist on such silly rules the more money and time get wasted on enforcing compliance. So I was pleased to see this week that The Economist had slipped up and let one through. The court does not have nationwide jurisdiction, so the mogul is unlikely to ever be thrown behind bars said an article about the Pakistani blasphemy law on page 59 of the November 29th issue.

The sentence is of course perfectly constructed. Recasting it with unlikely ever to or to be ever thrown would be no improvement.

So now the spell is broken: a staff writer finally wrote what came naturally instead of bowing before the style guide. The magazine published a straightforward no-excuses split infinitive; the sky did not fall; the English language is still in good shape. Let's have no more wasted time put into the crazy business of trying to ban perfectly grammatical sentences from a well-written magazine. Style editor lady (and you know who you are!), this silly proscription should be abandoned. And the cowardly style guide paragraph about it ("the ban is pointless," it admits, but "to see it broken is so annoying to so many people that you should observe it") should be deleted. Not even your own staff writers are paying attention to it.

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