I don't like it when people split their verb phrases. I don't mean to pick on Tom Blumer, but I just read a sentence he wrote that exemplifies the awkwardness of the split verb phrase.

Though there are far too many glaring exceptions, e.g., Bell, California, it’s still generally the case that the taxpaying public will tend to resist unreasonable attempts at expansion and unreasonable pay scales, and will often vote politicians who have supported or implemented such efforts out of office.

The italicized words split the bolded verb phrase and mentally break the flow of the phrase. It would have scanned more cleanly if it had been written as "and will often vote out of office politicians who have supported or implemented such efforts".

Grammar Girl says that there's no rule against splitting verb phrases. There are some instances in which I would support splitting a verb phrase for stylistic reasons. However, I believe that language can be used much more precisely and accurately when verb phrases are not split, and Chief Justice John Roberts probably agrees with me.

The famous psychologist and linguist Stephen Pinker had an interesting op-ed piece in the New York Times in which he noted that even though it's not against the rules to split a verb phrase, Chief Justice Roberts has shown a tendency in past writings to avoid it (3). I want to stress that it's not a rule (4); it's fine to split verb phrases, but it seems as if Roberts thinks it's a rule, and Pinker speculates that when Roberts was thrown off by the interruption, he rephrased the oath in his head to fit his view of how sentences should be written.

I expect that most of Roberts' writing and speaking is tailored for the legal domain and that he believes that the precise use of language is extremely important. As an engineer, I concur.

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