Q. First of all, what is an infinitive?
A. An infinitive is the “to” form of a verb: to run, to go, to jump, to wear, etc.
Q. So what’s a split infinitive?
A. A split infinitive is when you insert an adverb between the “to” and the verb. The most famous example is from Star Trek: To boldly go where no man has gone before.
Q. Are split infinitives bad?
A. Technically, there are no grammatical rules that state it’s improper to split infinitives, but for some reason it’s been drilled into writers since grade school that you shouldn’t.
Q. So should I split infinitives?
A. You can, but it’ll just annoy people who only think they are as grammatically informed as you are. Rather than reeducate the whole world, it’s easier to avoid splitting infinitives:
Fun Fact: The “Don’t Split Infinitives” rule was developed in the mid-nineteenth century when Victorian scholars (having nothing else to do since there was no TV yet) decided to return to pure Latin grammatical rules.
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Q. What is a colon and why should I use one?
A. A colon looks like : and is used to set up anticipation for the second part of a sentence.
Q. How do I use a colon?
A. Colons should always be used after an independent clause
Q. What is a semicolon?
A. A semicolon looks like ; and is used to connect two independent clauses.
Q. Why would you use a semicolon rather than a period?
A. You can connect two short, related sentences with a semicolon rather than a period if you think they are too choppy to stand on their own or if you want to draw attention to the relationship between them.
Fun fact! The colon made its debut in 1550, while the semicolon didn’t roll up until 1644.
Q. Seriously: What is up with affect and effect?
A. I know, right? What makes “affect” and “effect” especially confusing is the fact that these words do double duty as both nouns and verbs. While there are many definitions for “affect” and “effect,” I find that for most daily use, when you need a noun you go with “effect,” and when you need a verb you go with “affect,” like so:
Q. But sometimes I see “effect” as a verb…
A. While “affect” means to influence, “effect” as a verb refers to putting something into operation:
Q. So “effect” can be a verb, but usually not as often as “affect” is?
Q. What is the Oxford comma?
A. The Oxford (or serial) comma is a comma before “and” in a list of things
Q. Should I use the Oxford comma?
A. Technically the Oxford comma is neither right nor wrong, but some say it clutters the copy. Although, it does have its uses for clarity:
Q. When do I put a comma before “and” in a sentence?
A. When connecting two independent clauses
Q. Oh crud. I forgot what independent clauses are. How can I tell if I have two?
A. Independent clauses are parts of a sentence that can stand alone. A good rule of thumb I use is if you introduce a second subject in the second half of the sentence, you use a comma before “and.”
Fun fact! The Oxford comma was first introduced as rule in the 1905 edition of the Oxford University Press Style Guide, which is how it got the nickname. It is sometimes also called the Harvard comma since the Harvard press adheres to it as well.