Tag Archives: grammar

The More You Avoid “There,” the Better

Here are two compelling reasons to recheck whenever you write the word there.

First, if you begin a sentence with there and any tense of to be, such as:

  • There is
  • There was
  • There were
  • There will be

It’s probably padding that adds little to nothing and makes the sentence sound passive. You can usually fix this by putting the words that do say something first. Here’s an example:

There is a need to raise taxes to pay for road repairs.

You could go in at least two directions with this, depending on what you’re trying to emphasize — taxes or road repairs. Remember, readers get grabbed by what they see first.

If it’s taxes:

Raising taxes will pay for road repairs.

If it’s infrastructure:

To pay for road repairs, we need to raise taxes.

Here’s a minimalist option:

Paying for road repairs means raising taxes.

Are you getting the hang of it? Let’s try another one:

There were a dozen terrorists hiding in a cave with a bomb.

The simplest fix:

A dozen terrorists were hiding in a cave with a bomb.

You saw nary a there in any of these rewrites, and you didn’t miss it a bit, did you?

& & &

Rampant misuse of the contraction there’s (short for there is) is a new a pet peeve of mine. People use it with EVERYTHING, even plurals.

What results is not only a weak sentence, but an ignorant one:

There’s multiple ways to write any sentence.

(Microsoft Word just threw down the blue-double-underscore flag on that example. When Word notices your grammar is foul, you’ve hit rock-bottom.)

If you didn’t use the contraction, would you say, “There is multiple ways to write any sentence?” I certainly hope not.

If the plural ways don’t tip you off, then multiple should get your attention.

The plural subject takes the plural there are. And if you ever dare try to contract that to there’re, I’ll be forced to hunt you down and it won’t be pretty.

Now going back to my first point, to fix this, you could write:

You can write any sentence in multiple ways.

Advice: After you write something, do a Find on There and see how many of them you can eliminate.

Since When is “Into” ALWAYS One Word?

After seeing into all my life and thinking nothing of it, over just the past few months, it has caused me an existential crisis.

My only personal run-in was with some high school short story I wrote where a character walked “into the door” somewhere. My English teacher said it meant the character had actual impact with the door.

Yikes! Lesson learned.

(On the other hand, if I’d written that he walked “through the door,” this teacher, who seemed to take everything literally, would have claimed the character reduced the door to splinters.)

Now it seems everybody uses into as one word EVERY TIME.

I consulted Grammar Girl™ Mignon Fogarty’s Quick and Dirty Tips™, and found some comfort and clarification. She explained that into is a preposition generally relating to direction. (He walked into the room.)

I’ll add that it also relates to transformation. (She turned into a witch for Halloween.)

And I’ll add that it may be one word if you mean “to go inside” or “within.” (He jumped into his jeep.)

One more addition: It’s one word if you mean “intense interest.” (He’s really into playing with model trains.)

I’ve seen the following example written as one word, but I would say it should be two, like this:

I’m going to move in to a new house.

That’s because we call it “move-in day,” not “move-into day.” And because the sentence is intended to convey the act of moving rather than that the writer is going inside a new house.

Here’s an example as written that made my eyelid twitch because I think it’s wrong:

I can’t come into work on weekends.

The author meant that he couldn’t go there to do any work, not that he was physically unable get inside the office.

In my book, these next examples are also two words, even though you could make a weak argument that some direction is implied.

The maid came in to tidy up.

I think I’ll turn in to bed for the night.

The suspect turned himself in to police.

Bottom line: In my own writing, I find myself trying to avoid using into altogether. It’s not easy. There has to be a better way.