Did she really turn herself into police?
I was copy editing last night when this part of a sentence passed before my gaze: “18-year-old Christina Jenkins turned herself into Culpeper police Monday evening.”
I put a space between the words “in” and “to.”
The next sentence was a quote. It began, “Jenkins walked into Culpeper police headquarters about 6:30 p.m. in the company of her mother and surrendered.”
In this case, “into” was right. I left it alone.
That copy editing moment reminded me of the plea from fellow Virginia journalist Rhonda Simmons to explain the difference between “into” and “in to.”
Let’s see if I can.
“Into,” one word, is a preposition, and it generally refers to a change of location or a transformation. Here are some correct examples:
Maureen went into the store. (She changed her physical location.)
Maureen went into the Marines. (She joined a group.)
Maureen turned into a fitness fanatic. (She underwent a transformation.)
“Into” as one word also is an idiom meaning “interested in.”
Maureen and Jerry had a few dates, but she’s just not that into him.
But sometimes the word “in” and the word “to” find themselves next to each other by chance. In such cases, they mind their own business, keeping a respectful distance.
Maureen turned herself in to police. (We’re not saying she became police–a transformation–but that she surrendered herself to police custody.)
Maureen invited Rufus in to get out of the heat. (Here “in” is used in the sense of “inside,” and “to” is part of the verb “to get.”)
Is there a quick-and-dirty trick to determining whether you want “into” or “in to”?
Paul Brians recommends this method: “Try speaking the sentence concerned aloud, pausing distinctly between ‘in’ and ‘to.’ If the result sounds wrong, you probably need ‘into.’ ”
Sounds plausible to me.