The Volokh Conspiracy

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'How wirelessly to hack'—split that infinitive


Geoffrey Pullum (Language Log) has long railed against the no-split-infinitives demand; his latest focuses on this passage from the militantly anti-split-infinitive Economist:

At a computer-security conference in 2015, researchers demonstrated how wirelessly to hack a car made by Jeep ….

I'm with Pullum here: "how wirelessly to hack" sounds far worse to me than "how to wirelessly hack." There's no justification for any supposed "rule" against split infinitives in English, and examples such as this show that refusing to split the infinitive will often distract, confuse or annoy more people than splitting would.

UPDATE: Some commenters suggest "how to hack wirelessly" instead, but that too sounds stilted to me (though less so than "how wirelessly to hack"). We would usually say "they wirelessly hacked the cars" rather than "they hacked wirelessly the cars"—why change that when you're using the infinitive?

And in some sentences, moving the adverb to after the verb would create ambiguity; the classic example is "working to better equip candidates"—"working better to equip candidates" and "working to equip better candidates" can both be read (at least at first) as meaning something else.