A simple but usually effective trick of the trade I learned from a framer was to blunt the point of the nail before driving it wherever there might be danger of splitting. This can be done by setting the nail point up with the head on a hard surface and striking the point several times with your hammer.
Rather than separating the wood fibers, which may cause splitting, the nail tears the fibers as its blunted end is driven. The nail acts like a punch and makes a cleaner hole. The safest alternative, of course, would be to predrill, but this is often impractical, especially when framing.
Robert Nye, Waterford, CT