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He used his disability in order to win our votes, which is an evil way to win the election.

This is a sentence which I submit for an English class assignment, but my teacher crossed out in order, which leaves the sentence to be:

He used his disability to win our votes, which is an evil way to win the election.

I asked the teacher why in order is crossed out, since it tells the purpose in this sentence structure, having in order should be right and does not affect the meaning of the sentence.

But my teacher told me it sounds odd and doesn't flow well in her opinion, and also has nothing to do with redundancy.

Must in order be omitted in this case and Why?

  • Acccumulation's answer seems to be 'more correct' than the answers that say/suggest that it does not change the meaning. This should also explain why your teacher felt it doesn't flow well (nothing to do with redundancy), though it seems that your teacher couldn't pin down the reason. Unrelated to that question, I think it's better to say "exploited" or "took advantage of" instead of "used". – user21820 Mar 13 at 3:02
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Actually, in this case "in order" does add something to the sentence, but it adds something that doesn't fit. "to" has several different senses. Consider "He bought scissors to have something to open the package with" versus "He used the scissors to open the package". In the first, we are talking about some future plans, while in the second we're talking about a present use. "in order" fits with the first, but not the second. "He bought scissors in order to have something to open the package with" would be overly wordy, but correct. "He used to the scissors in order to open the package" would be just weird.

Here, the second sense makes sense. But if you put "in order" in there, then you are saying "He used his disability, and the reason he used his disability was to get votes", when "He used his disability, and the thing he used his disability towards was getting votes" makes more sense. If it were instead "He talked about his disability a lot to get votes", then putting "in order" in there would make sense, albeit still overly wordy.

  • Well said, I think this was what bothered me too and I couldn’t quite articulate why. – Mixolydian Mar 13 at 11:46
14

I wouldn't say it's incorrect. But it's rather verbose. It doesn't change the meaning. It doesn't add anything to it.

I think in order to would make more sense at the beginning of the sentence.

In order to win our votes, he used his disability.

9

He used his disability (in order) to win our votes , which is an evil way to win the election.

In many cases, it's optional, and a matter of style, though it is a useful test for determining whether an infinitival clause is a purpose adjunct.

In finite clause constructions, it is more or less obligatory in examples such as in Open the wine in order that it can breathe, where dropping "in order" results in an unacceptable sentence, though acceptability can be restored by replacing it with "so".

  • 1
    In your last paragraph, the "so" is actually not required, however it sounds archaic without it. See ell.stackexchange.com/a/182784/11142 – Sabre Mar 12 at 14:45
  • 1
    @Sabre That's why I used the word "acceptability", not "grammaticality". – BillJ Mar 12 at 15:57
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I don't think it must be omitted in this case, but I think your teacher's edit constitutes an improvement.

Not every correction from a teacher happens because something is "incorrect." Teachers should help students improve their writing, and this change is an improvement.

In an article entitled 47 words and phrases that slow your reader down, the author urges: Cut the fluff (shortening "in order to" to "to" is one of the recommendations).

In an article entitled 15 Clunky Phrases to Eliminate From Your Writing Today – How to Crack Down on Wordiness, the author writes:

In most cases, the phrase “in order to” works just as well without the “in order”, with the infinitive form of the verb on its own. For example, the phrase, “In order to assess the author’s intentions” would work just as well if it read, “To assess the author’s intentions”, and no unnecessary words will have been used.

And #168 on this list of Flabby Words and Phrases reads:

In order to – Redundant phrase. You don’t need in order. Example: In order to succeed, you must work hard. Better: To succeed, you must work hard.

You were correct when you said that the extra words don't affect the meaning of your sentence. When that's the case, though, the more concise wording is generally preferred. I think your teacher is giving sound advice.

  • Exellent references. It really brightened my day. – Mindwin Mar 13 at 13:42
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“In order to” works in some contexts like this but not others. I agree with your teacher. One does something in order to achieve an end, but here, “He used his disability” is not something he did whose purpose needs to be explained by following it with “in order to”. It’s kind of like “for the purpose of.” This sounds bad:

He used his disability for the purpose of winning our votes.

That doesn’t sound right, because he does not use his disability only for a certain purpose (like winning votes). He always has a disability.

If you replaced “used” with “exploited” I think “for the purpose of” or “in order to” would sound less strange. “Exploiting” is what he actually did. Or “played up” or “emphasized”.

2

Bit of a dissenting opinion: I prefer your original sentence, it's a perfectly natural use of "in order to", in my opinion. It stresses the "for the purpose of" focus of the sentance, as with the simple "to" some readers will think the stress is "votes" or "win" or some other aspect.

It's certainly correct and grammatical and well within what I might expect to read or hear in public discourse.

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