Have you ever thought much about the pronouns ‘me’ and ‘myself’? Probably not. But you should!

What is each pronoun all about?

The pronoun ‘me’ is an object pronoun. Therefore, as a writer, you want to use it either after a preposition, such as ‘for me’, 'with me’, ‘from me’, or as the object of a verb, for example: He loves me. It frightened me. They discussed me. 

The pronoun ‘myself’ is a reflexive pronoun. Hence, it needs to reflect back to the subject of the sentence. Examples include: I made it myself. I, myself, am Danish.

What is the problem with these pronouns?

Actually, it’s more than one problem. Multiple transgressions against these pronouns exist! Many people will use ‘me’ and ‘myself’ instead of the subject pronoun ‘I’. For example: Dave and myself worked on the project together. Kim and me have been friends forever!

Did you notice in the two examples that ‘myself’ had no ‘I’ subject to reflect back to, and that ‘me’ was used in front of the verb? Yikes!

To compound the problem of pronouns is this head scratcher: how we use pronouns in speech is often incorrect, but somewhat acceptable. Therefore, when we use them correctly in writing and then read them aloud, it sounds wrong. Or as many students like to say, “It sounds weird!” Yes, perhaps it does, but you’re editing for grammar and not for sound.

What is the solution to this tragedy?

Multiple solutions exist! Here are three:

  1. Look at your sentence structure. Find your verb, then find your subject.  You’ll use ‘me’ after the verb and you’ll use ‘myself’ if you’re referring back to the subject. For example: Allow me to help you. I chose to do it myself.
     
  2. Use this editing trick: Cover the words that are part of a compound, for example:(Jenn and) me went to the meeting. Therefore, my covering ‘Jenn and’, you’re left with ‘me went to…’ You wouldn’t write that! So, change the pronoun to “I” – Jenn and I went to the meeting. Here’s another example: The office staff created the ID cards for John and myself.  When you remove the compound, you’re left with “…cards for myself.” Opps! That’s incorrect, so please change it to ‘me’.
  1. Lose this phrase from your vocabulary: “Please contact myself.” Because there is no subject in that sentence, you can’t use ‘myself’. However, you do have a verb (contact), and you know ‘me’ comes after a verb, so that’s the correction – “Please contact me.” (I know you always read “Please contact myself” in correspondence, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct!)

Why not look at some correspondence and see if you can identify any misuse of ‘me’ or ‘myself’? Then, review your documents and assess your use of ‘me’ and ‘myself’. You might be surprised at what you do or do not find!

 

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By Marie Antaya, CTDP

Author of The Eclectic Writing Series.