December 17, 2003

To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before

It’s the birthday of William Safire, former speechwriter for Nixon. In 1979 he began writing his “On Language” column, which lays out the dos and don’ts of grammar and usage. He has continued the column to this day. He once wrote a list called “William Safire’s Rules for Writers” as an aid for the use of correct English. The rules included, “Remember to never split an infinitive”; “The passive voice should never be used”; and “Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.” What a sense of humor.

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2 Responses to “”


  1. I got hammered in grad school for using split infinitives! Yet, many of my favorite writers still commit this crime. I suspect, because language is a malleable thing, in 20 years split infinitives will be accepted as proper grammar, a fate similar to ‘fortuitous.’

  2. argonaut Says:

    Hahaha…split infinitives and misplaced modifiers…fodder for prescriptivist professors! Indeed, I read plenty of reputable writers who seemingly break the rules of English. You’re right, language is in a constant state of flux and maybe one day split infinitives will fortuitously (or not so fortuitously) suffer the same fate as, well, ‘fortuitous.’


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