Tag: Prepositions

Grammar Tip: On to vs. Onto

How do you know whether to use “onto,” or “on to” in your sentence? I find authors often confuse these two in work I edit, so here’s the tip I use to decide which one would be correct in any particular sentence.

Onto is a preposition that indicates either movement to a position on or in a state of awareness about.

On to is a combination of an adverb (“on”) and a preposition (“to”). The adverb “on” indicates position and the preposition “to” indicates movement.

You can see why these two may be frequently confused. Yet the following two sentences have very different end results:

  • I drove up Broadway and on to the bank to deposit my check.
  • I drove up Broadway and onto the bank to deposit my check.

In the first sentence, I’m just running an everyday errand, taking Broadway to get to my bank. In the second sentence, I’ve still driven up Broadway but I parked my car on top of the bank to deposit a check.

I actually picked up a trick from The Chicago Manual of Style on how to determine which of these two options to choose. If you can insert the word “up” before “on” and the sentence still makes sense, “onto” would be the correct choice to make.

Hall of Shame: Missing prepositions

Today’s Hall of Shame is brought to you by another online newspaper headline.

Rare tumor robs young woman’s voice

My first thought was wondering how the young woman’s voice was robbed? Was it at gunpoint? Maybe it was robbed of a register of vocal range.

No – what really happened was that a tumor caused surgeons to remove the young woman’s larynx. Her voice was not robbed. Instead she was robbed OF her voice. The author of the headline should have used a preposition (“of”) to show the correct relationship between “young woman” and “voice”.