Me, Myself and I

Ah, the English language. Such a confusing language. Especially when dealing with yourself.  Some of the most articulate, educated  people I have known struggle with the appropriate use of the words “I,” “My” and “Me.” It is a conundrum, and one that I don’t think is that difficult, if you know the tricks, that is.

Lately it seems that there is no word more reviled than “me.” Why is it that sane, intelligent people use this word incorrectly (or, rather refuse to use it) all the time? I’ve heard one theory that people often misuse the word “I” (when they should be using”me”) because “I” sounds smarter. How can one sound smart, if s/he is using the wrong word?

But it’s not just “me” and “I” people have issues with, “we” vs. “us,” “he” vs. “him” and “she” vs. “her” are all culprits, as well.

I’m sure we’ve all heard these examples of misuse before:

“Please give that report to Suzy and I by the end of the day.”

“Him and I went to dinner on our date.”

“That doesn’t work for John and I’s schedule.”

“Me and Jane went car shopping yesterday.”

“Her and her sister are so much alike.”

And the list goes on….

Here are two general tips on how to use pronouns correctly. As the English has many exceptions to its myriad rules, these are not necessarily hard and fast rules, but it’s a start.  (And please take note. There is no such word in the English language as “I’s”!)

  1. Do not use “I” as an object of a prepositional phrase; use “me.”  To test which word to use, replace the object with “we” or “us.” If “us” works in the phrase, then use “me;” if not, use “I.”
  2. Do not use “her,” “him” or “me” at the start of the sentence. To test which word is best, take out the “her and I (or me)” completely and replace it with “we.” If “we” fits, use “she,” “he” or “I.”

BONUS TIP: “Who” and “whom” have also been the ire of many writers and speakers. The first rule generally will work with “who” and “whom,” as well, such as in a prepositional phrase.  For example: “to whom it may concern” or “for whom the bell tolls.”  

There are several tricks to help break the bad habit of using pronouns incorrectly. Just remember, there is a time to correctly us “I” and “me,” and once you practice and become aware of it, you will start using these pronouns the right way. Soon, you will start becoming aware of how much these misunderstood words are, and hearing them misused will be like nails on a chalkboard.

Some great resources for grammar and punctuation are:

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, by Mignon Fogarty

Eats Shoots & Leaves, by Lynne Truss

Copyblogger copywriting tips:

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