This Month's Grammar Rule: Me, Myself and I

Pronouns trip up some of the bet business writers. A pronoun is a stand-in word for a noun. For example, "he" stands in for "Jonathan:" Jonathan wanted to start the new project today. He plans to set a meeting for this afternoon."

Many people have trouble matching pronouns to the nouns they replace or the sentence in which they're used (in this sentence, "they're" stands in for "pronouns," which is a plural word). One of the most common grammar mistakes in pronoun use is incorrectly choosing whether to use the pronouns "me," "myself" or "I."

When to Use I

Let's begin with use of "I." In many uses, it's easy to know when to use this pronoun in writing or speaking. "I went to the sales training last week." It's always appropriate to use I to stand in for your name when you're the subject of the sentence. In other words, I am doing something, taking some sort of action. It's easy to spot in our example sentence: I took the action of going to the training. But what if I went with a co-worker? "Janet and I went to the sales training last week." Adding another subject often trips people up. But if you take Janet back out of the sentence, the pronoun is the same and easy to spot. Both Janet and I went.

When to Use Me

In many cases, people substitute "me" in the example above. "Janet and me went…" It's a common mistake, and one you can avoid by reading the subject of the sentence alone so it's clear who performed the action. So, when does "me" work as the personal pronoun? When I am the object of an action, or when someone does something to or for me. To continue with our example, "me" would work in this case: "Sam sent Janet and me to the sales training last week." The difference seems subtle but first, but note Sam performed the action of sending, and the objects of the sending were Janet and I. Break it down to be sure, "Sam sent me." "The boss asked me…"

When to Use Myself

The correct use of "myself" is a little more complicated. "Myself" is considered a reflexive pronoun, which is a word that stands in for a noun when it refers back to the subject of the action or sentence. For example, "I gave myself a day off." I is the subject pronoun, and myself the reflexive one. It might be easier to understand when a different subject starts the sentence. "Janet and I had to leave early. I made a cup of coffee for her before we left for the sales meeting." (In the first sentence, Janet and I both are subjects, performing an action. In the second sentence, I am the subject and her stands in for Janet.) But how about this: "Janet and I had to leave early. I made a cup of coffee for myself and her before we left for the sales meeting."

Learn more about use of pronouns and other tips to improve your business writing. Visit Business Writing That Counts! online or call and ask us about our services at 425-485-3221.

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