Professional Style

In vs. Into

February 2009
Spot the Error

With little regard for his own safety, Michael dived in the turbulent, rushing water to save his dog.

Sadly, Mike is not a very bright fellow. Not because he valiantly tried to save his dog, but because Mike was playing in the perilous water in the first place! How do I know? The word in.

In denotes a position:

Edith was in the storm cellar when the tornado struck her house.

She wasn’t beside it, around it, or on top of it—she was in it. Merely a position; no movement involved. Likewise, when “Michael dived in the turbulent, rushing water,” he wasn’t beside it—he was already in it—he just went deeper.

Into, on the other hand, involves motion:

When Edith saw the black funnel approaching her house, she ran into the storm cellar and latched the door.

She moved from an outer position to an inner position. Action verbs typically take into.

So, for Michael to appear truly valiant, and not just idiotically reckless, he would need to dive into the water (and hope he doesn’t crack his skull on a boulder.)

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