Too Many Tos

An error I am seeing constantly is the incorrect rendering of too as to. Just yesterday in an Email Intelligence class someone wrote this phrase to describe what slows down her reading of email: "to many words." That’s wrong.

People occasionally let me know they are unsubscribing from my newsletter because they get "to much email." Wrong.

Last night my daughter asked me to proofread a book report. In it, she described a character as "Caring to much about what people think of her." Again, wrong.

When I asked my daughter to find the error in her sentence, she found and corrected it immediately. She reminded me of an easy way I had taught her to recognize which word a sentence needs. Here it is:

If you can pronounce the to/too word "ta" (rhymes with the), you can spell it "to." If you can’t pronounce the word "ta" it must be too.

We live in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, so our pronunciation may be different from yours, but give the "ta" method (rhymes with the) a try on these sentences:

I am going ___ the shopping mall.

Renee and Rachel are going ____.

I hope there won’t be ___ many people in the car.

Of course, it’s just a short distance ___ drive.

Following the pronunciation hint, I determine the correct renderings are to, too, too, to. Do you agree?

If you find definitions more reliable than pronunciations, too means "very," "excessively," or "also."

Beyond that, the word too can always be deleted without an important loss of meaning. Typically to cannot.

It takes just a moment of proofreading to catch to/too errors. And that time is an essential investment, since the grammar and spelling checker on Microsoft Office does not flag to/too errors. You have to do it yourself. Or, if you are like my daughter, just ask your mother.

Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.