Freelance Writing

When and How to Use Me, Myself, and I in Your Business Writing

I love playing with words. While everyone else was building erector sets, constructing Lincoln Log cabins, or simply playing with dolls, I played with words. Right about now, you’re thinking, how do you play with words? So, I’ll tell you.

When it’s just me alone with myself and I in the room, things can get a little crazy. So, I’ll get to the, um, nitty gritty as it were. Yes, I know there’s a filler word in this sentence.  This is English grammar. It’s like not wanting to eat your vegetables and hoping there’s enough spice to get them down your gullet.

What the Heck is the Difference and Why Should I Care?

Whether you’re in school and required to use a certain style or you’re simply writing a business document, it’s important to check your writing for clarity. Knowing the difference between me, myself, and I can move your sentence along and ensure the reader takes an action.

Me is the objective form of a personal pronoun. It is used when the pronoun is the direct or indirect object of a verb. Right, so now go back to grade school grammar and try to recall basic sentence structure. OR check out this sentence to use as a template.

Example: My husband bought my mother and I roses. – Incorrect
My husband bought my mother and me roses. – Correct

How to check your work: Take a look at the incorrect sentence and try omitting “my mother.” How does it read? “My husband bought I roses.” Doesn’t make sense, right? Now, do the same thing with the correct sentence. A nifty little trick, yes?

Additional objective forms of personal pronoun include: you, him, her, it, them, and us.

Myself is a compound personal pronoun. Though its job is to direct action expressed by the verb back to the subject or emphasize a noun or pronoun already expressed, it is rarely used in business writing. If you don’t want to worry whether using it is correct or not, simply omit it altogether. But, if you find you must write it for some reason, here is an example to use as a template:

Example: Please direct your comments to Rachel and myself. – Incorrect
Please direct your comments to Rachel and me. – Correct

How to check your work: Take a quick look at the incorrect sentence and omit the word or I’d omit it myself if I could. See what I did there?

Additional compound pronouns include: yourself, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, themselves, and yourselves. Take a look. Would you really use any of these personal pronouns in business documentation? Not likely, I suspect.

The word I is used when it is the subject of a verb. It is the nominative form of a personal pronoun. This is the last, but not least, of the “me, myself, and I’ phrasing. Short of a person’s given name or the personal pronoun “you,” I is the most prevalent. Raise your hand, if you just thought to yourself, “I think so, too.” Caught ya, didn’t I?

Told you, I like to play with words. Here are two more incorrect versus correct examples to use as templates in your own writing:

Example:  Myself, I require the report by Friday – Incorrect
                   I need the report by Friday. – Correct

How to check your work: Take a quick look at the incorrect sentence. Bulky, isn’t it? What would happen if the word “myself” were omitted? You guessed it! It becomes the correct sentence.

Additional nominative form personal pronouns include: you, he, she, it, we, and they.

One Final thing to Note

Your ear can tell you more than you know. Write the words down. Say them out loud. Then, let them roll off your tongue to see how they sound to your ear and if there’s alliteration, so much the better! But, I digress, and feel one of my famous run-on sentences coming on. A mentor several years ago suggested my sentences were Hemingway-esque. He didn’t mean it in a good way.

I mention my mentor only because during the few months we worked together, he helped me hone my writing. But, it didn’t stop with him. An avid user of Grammarly, Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, and even Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL), I’m always honing my skills. Outside of online resources, I read out loud to whoever will listen, and get a second pair of eyes to review what I may have missed.

There’s not a lot of time when you’re writing for business, I know. But, if you’ve read this all the way through, it’s a great first step.

Every Tuesday, Writing in the Fast Lane posts #writingtiptuesday grammar rules to our Facebook and Twitter pages. Want to be the first to see and get bite-sized grammar suggestions, we invite you to check us out!

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