To, Too Or Two That Is The Question

By Laurie Dart

To is a homophone. I know what you’re thinking – a what? A homophone; if you watch Jeopardy you know homophones are words that sound alike but have different meanings and are spelled differently. How do you know when to use to versus two versus too? Well, it can be confusing, but there are a few ways to make sure you’re using the right one. Let’s see if we can’t make it a little easier to remember. To is a preposition which normally begins a prepositional phrase. I want to go to the zoo is an example. To, can also be an infinitive; which is the simplest present form of a verb. It can be used as a noun, an adjective or an adverb. When used as an adverb, it is usually preceded by to – I really wanted to go yesterday. When you use it as a noun, you can often drop the ‘to’ – I helped [to] load the van. Finally, it can also be used an adjective – I was looking for a way to feel involved. So, in all those cases, ‘to’ is the appropriate choice.

Too is an adverb and usually means also or excessively. We had too many students to fit in the van. I was disappointed we couldn’t all fit too. When you’re editing and trying to decide if ‘too’ is the appropriate choice, ask yourself if you could substitute also or excessive for ‘too’. For example: I like pizza also but she ate excessively. It’s not too difficult to figure out which is the appropriate use if you stop and think about it for a minute or two. Another little trick that might help you remember – think of the extra O as adding more to something.


Which brings us to ‘two’; the final of the commonly confused threesome. Two is a number – period. You can have two tickets and four divided by two is two. Another trick – many things that represent two begin with tw such as twins, twice and twenty. Making sure you use the right word is a matter of careful editing. Take your time when editing and proofreading and stop to think about what you’re trying to say. Many of us make our original contact with potential clients and customers via our Web site or other written venues, so writing wisely is critical to your success.

When I travel around the Web looking at different Web sites I know that many lose credibility with me immediately when I spot a typo – and I spot a lot of them. Far too many actually! Take the time to learn (or relearn) grammar. You’d be surprised how much sense it actually makes now that you’re an adult and you don’t HAVE to learn it. Practice your writing skills and look up words when you’re not sure. It’s much better to take the time and do a little research than it is to have someone email you with a typo or misused word on your site or other promotional materials.

Pay attention to commonly misspelled words, commonly misused words and strange words like homophones. To, too and two aren’t the only ones. There are many others: pale, and pail; blue and blew; due and do; maid and made; the list goes on and on. Don’t assume that a word is spelled correctly unless you’ve verified the meaning. Take care with your writing, practice and soon you’ll be writing wisely too.

About the Author: Laurie Dart, author and owner of Writing Wisely provides writing and editing services to entrepreneurs and small business owners. To improve your writing, visit the Web site:


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