How to avoid misusing these pronouns
Admittedly, I’m a bit of a grammar nerd, so imagine my delight at the preoccupation with pronouns in recent years. Despite renewed interest in grammar and grammatical terminology, however, I continue to see and hear a certain group of pronouns misused. I have written often about these over the years, imploring professionals to come to terms with syntax, but largely in vain. In fact, misapplication is worsening in some sectors.
Why do I let this bother me? Is it my broadcast background? Is it recollections of repeated shameful admonishments in elementary school? Am I disheartened because of the high bar I set for professionals? Maybe it’s all the above. Maybe no one really cares.
I’ve been called a traditionalist and told that linguistics is fluid. Heck Websters introduces new, often concocted, words every year, so why shouldn’t grammar rules change? After all, when improper grammar is used often enough and creeps into the most staunchly professional settings, it becomes normalized just like any behavior.
Still, taking into consideration the aforementioned, I find it grating when I see in writing or hear professionals, especially journalists, misuse first-person pronouns and first-person reflexive pronouns. It’s …well, triggering, if I may borrow from the file of currently overused verbs.
The first-person pronoun rule is simple. When referring to yourself in a sentence, use “I” when you are the subject, such as, “I’m quite hungry.” Use “me” when you are the object. “My boss treated me to lunch.”
Easy peasy, right?
Now add Suzy to the equation. This is where everyone seems to destroy usage of the first-person pronoun.
“Suzy and I are quite hungry.”
“The boss treated Suzy and me to lunch.”
“Me and Suzy are quite hungry.”
“The boss treated Suzy and I to lunch.”
Oh brother! Just typing that made my blood run cold as though I heard fingernails slowly scraping a chalkboard from top to bottom.
Here’s the deal, if you recall the incessant scolding of a teacher instructing, “It’s Suzy and I,” it’s likely because you used “me” as the subject of the sentence. When in doubt, remove Suzy from the equation. “Me quite hungry” sounds like caveman speak. No?
While we’re talking about first person pronouns, please do not refer to yourself as “myself.” The reflexive pronoun should be used when referencing something you did to yourself. For example, “I cracked myself up with that caveman joke.” You wouldn’t say, “I cracked me up with that joke.”
I often hear professionals use “myself” when “me” should be used. Incorrect: “When you are finished with that report, please submit it to Jay and myself.” Yikes! Nails on the chalkboard again!
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