300 Days of Better Writing

February 4, 2014

Repeat “to” when using infinitives in a complex series.

Filed under: WritingExcellence — preciseedit @ 1:40 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

First, a quick note about infinitive forms of verbs. The infinitive form is the to version. One example of an infinitive is to run as in “I like to run.” Now, on to the tip.

In a series, one word will often refer to all the items in the series. Consider this sentence:

“She has beautiful hair, eyes, and teeth.”

The word “beautiful” refers to all the items in the series. When people write a series of verb infinitives, they will often write to only one time. Consider this sentence.

“The rare African moth is known to drink blood from recently dead animals, follow herds of elephants for miles, often for months at a time, in both rainy and dry seasons, and make noises with its wings, which resemble the rattle of a snake, to frighten away potential competitors.”

This sentence is unclear. Readers will have a hard time finding the beginning of each item in the series because the items are complex (they have commas). By using this tip, the sentence is much clearer:

“The rare African moth is known to drink blood from recently dead animals, to follow herds of elephants for miles, often for months at a time, in both rainy and dry seasons, and to make noises with its wings, which resemble the rattle of a snake, to frighten away potential competitors.”


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