I, myself, and me: Word Usage Errors That Can Stop Readers in Their Tracks
Not long ago, an email arrived with a message with such glaring errors that made me stop and look at the words instead of the message.
When that happens with your prospects, it means you’ve lost them. They will no longer “hear” your message, because they’ll be hung up on the words – and trying to figure out what you meant. That is, just before they crumple the letter or hit the delete button.
The email message began: “Join myself and my Joe Jones as we enjoy a webinar …”
Ugh. Didn’t they even look at this before they hit send? The message begins with one shrieking word usage error and a typo. At least I think it was a typo. We don’t generally use “my” ahead of a person’s name. Well, not unless we add a description. For instance: “my friend Joe Jones” or “my partner, Joe Jones.”
But back to the word usage error…” If Joe hadn’t been included, would this person really have said “Join myself as I enjoy…?” So far I’ve never heard anyone say that.
But we see and hear this misuse of “myself” all the time when the speaker/writer is refering to himself/herself and another person . Someone says “If you have questions, call myself or Joe.” Some are more polite, they say “…call Joe or myself.”
Remember – only use “myself” when YOU are the subject. In the above sentences someone else – the reader/listener – is the subject, whether that’s understood or stated.
Correct: “I attended the movie by myself.” “I cooked dinner for myself.”
Correct: “Call Joe or me.” Incorrect: “Call me or Joe.” (Always put the other person first.) Also incorrect: “Call Joe or I.” (see below)
Then there’s “I.”
My (retired school teacher) neighbor always says things like “The kids sent a gift to Mary and I.” Or “I’m going to go cook dinner for Mary and I.” If Mary wasn’t there, would he say “I’m going to go cook dinner for I?” I don’t think so. It just wouldn’t sound right. Meanwhile, he needs to learn to use the words “me” and “myself.”
I don’t hear “me” misused too often – not since high school when kids went around saying “Me ‘n Sam went to the ball game.” I still see it once in a while in the local newspaper when someone is being quoted. “Me and my husband was just minding our own business when…”
(Right – there’s a bit of confusion about was and were, too.)
But “myself” and “I” seem to be a problem even for the well-educated.
Why all this confusion?
My theory is that it’s because we’ve all been cautioned not to use “me, me, me” so much. It almost feels like people have gotten paranoid about it, so are going out of their way to avoid using it, even when it fits. And you know, unless you’re writing a story about someone else, it’s almost impossible to completely avoid using “me” or “I.” In a marketing letter, at some point you’re going to have to mention yourself, even if it’s only to say “Please call me.”
The solution: Listen. If you don’t feel absolutely sure about the use, read it out loud and listen to how it sounds when you remove the other person. You would not say “Please come to visit I.” It simply sounds wrong. Unfortunately, there are a few who might say “Please come to visit myself.” (Big sigh.)
Just remember, “I” is a subject and “me” is an object. And you don’t use myself unless you’re talking about what you did to/for/with yourself.
I wrote this blog post.
Jerry didn’t write it for me.
I caught myself before I wrote the wrong word.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net