False purpose

This is most common in sports and business writing, but it pops up everywhere. It occurs when a writer uses an infinitive (to give, to hurt, etc.) after another verb, giving the false impression that an action was predetermined or purposeful. For example:

“Jones scored 21 points to give the Jayhawks an 83-72 victory.”

“The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 23 points to close at 11,183.”

Jones didn’t plan to score 21 points or to give KU an 83-72 victory. No one planned for the stock market to close at a specific level, and certainly the stock market didn’t decide for itself. But that’s how it sounds.

Fixing false purpose is easy. All you need to do is change the infinitive to a participle or to change it to past tense and use and. Either way provides the same information without implying a false intention.

“Jones scored 21 points, giving the Jayhawks an 83-72 victory.”

“The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 23 points and closed at 11,183.”

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