Shown prose versus told prose – which to choose
This problematic use of infinitives can be framed in terms of showing and telling. There’s room for both in any story, but, as always, context is everything.
Here are three points to bear in mind when deciding whether to ditch your ‘to’ and recast.
Conjunctions aren’t the only option. There are other ways of fixing told motivation-based prose where action is what the author really wants to convey. Let’s revisit one of our earlier examples. Each recast has a slightly different mood, but the ‘to’ has been ditched.
Red flags – words and phrases to watch out for
What we mustn’t do is hunt out every example of an infinitive verb form and hit the DELETE button. That would be catastrophic. Instead, during the revision process, check what the following words and phrases are doing to your prose.
Are they showing motivation or impending action? Is that what you want? And will the logic hold up?