Getting into grammar…. or in to vs. into

I admired my father but at the same time I am glad or at least comfortable that I am not him or not a carbon copy of him — but I do wish my command of grammar was as good as his. I’m fairly sure he did not make mistakes in grammar (well maybe, I mean who is perfect?). I imagine that is because he was a good student in school from an early age, and remember, they used to call it “grammar school”. Nowadays it’s free-form, anything goes, at least so I am told, and certainly the writing one sees everywhere suggests that.

What prompts this mention is my nagging concern that I probably confuse the uses of “in to” and “into”. My dad always picked up on misuses of those two combinations of words. I’m not going “into” an explanation of the proper use here (you’re on your own on that), except I believe it would be correct to write: “The man turned himself in to the police”, that is if you mean someone gave himself up to the police. And I think that is where dad spotted the misuse in newspaper stories. For if you were to write: “The man turned himself into the police”, you would be describing some type of transformation of character. I mean the man was just an ordinary citizen (or maybe a criminal) and then by his own doing he becomes “the police”.

But the other day I was sending a message to someone remarking about my concern over this usage, that is to say whether I even have it down myself. And then just awhile ago I was trying to look for some guidance on the computer when stories popped up about someone turning himself in to the police, and sure enough, even though it was the same story, that is about the same person and the same incident, some accounts used “in to” and others “into”.

Now probably in this instance there would be no confusion in meaning, but without some type of standards in grammar there can be all kinds of confusion. And when you read something with poor usage and you realize it as such, don’t you automatically question the reliability or credibility of the source?

I may not be as good with grammar as I should be, but I believe in it. And that includes punctuation, but let’s not even go there.

One more thing. I knew English instruction was going downhill when my eighth grade English teacher remarked about herself: “I never was good at spelling”.


Besides not being a top grammarian I sometimes purposely violate rules as a matter of style and practicality, and that is always good for an excuse.

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