JS Tip 140: From the Writing Workshops: In to and Into

Kyle Poturica of Wells Fargo Bank asked, “I’ve noticed the misuse of “in to” and “into.” Can you address this in one of your Friday tips?”

Yes, we can.

It’s not an easy explanation. The two are related, and the difference depends on what you mean.

Into usually means a change of direction, nature, or interest:

She steered the boat into the harbor. (Direction: The boat changes direction and moves into the harbor.)

He spun the straw into gold. (Nature: The straw changes into gold.)

They were really into vegetarianism. (Interest: They ate a lot of kohlrabi.)  

In to usually means transfer:

She turned the report in to her supervisor. (She transferred the report from her control to that of her supervisor.)

We put the sample in to the refrigerator. (We transferred the lab sample from the table to cold storage.)

The Problem

It’s easy to mislead your reader. This usually involves the word turn:  

She turned the report into her supervisor. (POOF! Three pages of paper change into a senior company official.)

He turned his car into a driveway. (POOF! The BMW morphs into gray asphalt.)

Be careful. Check your e-mail before you send it. Check your work before you turn it in. Think of how your reader might understand your words.

Next week: Using your time.