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Friday, October 2, 2009

Question: Where does "also" go?

A great question from Mary:

Please weigh in on the recent trend of using the AP Stylebook as an excuse to rail against any use of split infinitives and even "split" verb phrases. Often the changes these folks insist on making render the sentence clunky, formal, and grating, at least to my ears.

What do you think? For example, they change the perfectly fine

"The techniques are also used to fight cancer." to "The techniques also are used to fight cancer."

I agree that the "also" sounds better in the first sentence. The AP Stylebook advises "In general, avoid awkward constructions that split infinitive forms of a verb or compound forms.... Occasionally, however, a split is not awkward and is necessary to convey meaning." An example it doesn't like: "There stood the wagon that we had early last autumn left by the barn." Of course it prefers "There stood the wagon that we had left by the barn early last autumn."

The listing in the AP Stylebook doesn't specifically use "also," but I know I have read newspaper sentences that use "also" in an awkward manner. I guess we can just call it a style, and if you don't like it and don't work for a newspaper, you can put your "also" wherever seems natural.

Two links to Grammar Girl episodes that touch on these subjects:

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