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Me, myself, I

October 8, 2012

Based on a ‘Writing Tip’ I wrote for my work colleagues.

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For those old enough to remember, Joan Armatrading sang about ‘Me, myself, I’ way back in 1980 on an album of the same name (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kavu_vuD2QM). Perhaps she was as confused as many others over whether/when to use ‘me’, ‘myself’, or ‘I’ in a sentence and so decided to use them all!

Bottom line:

  • ‘Myself’ is RARELY correct
  • Take out the extra people so you’re the only one left and see how the sentence sounds with ‘me’, ‘myself’, or ‘I’

Here are three possibilities for a simple request:

  • If you have questions please direct them to Paul or me
  • If you have questions please direct them to Paul or myself
  • If you have questions please direct them to Paul or I

Now, here are the same possibilities with ‘Paul’ removed:

  • If you have questions please direct them to me
  • If you have questions please direct them to myself
  • If you have questions please direct them to I

Read each one aloud. ‘Myself’ and ‘I’ both sound awkward and/or pretentious. The only correct option is ‘me’. Which means that when you put ‘Paul’ back into the sentence, you have to use ‘me’. The trick for deciding which option to use is to remove the extra person and then see how the sentence sounds.

Some more:

  • Paul and me will write the report OR Me and Paul will write the report.
  • Paul and myself will write the report OR Myself and Paul will write the report.
  • Paul and I will write the report OR I and Paul will write the report.

Again, take out ‘Paul’ and the ‘and’ and read the sentence without the extra person:

  • Me will write the report.
  • Myself will write the report.
  • I will write the report.

This time the only correct option is ‘I will write the report’ so when you put ‘Paul’ back into the sentence, you have to use ‘I’. NOTE: If you’re using multiple people, you always put yourself last (so, ‘Paul and I will write the report’, NOT ‘I and Paul will write the report’).

The number of people doesn’t change the pronoun that you use – if you use ‘me’ for one person, then you use ‘me’ when you list multiple people; if you use ‘I’ for one person, then you continue to use ‘I’ when there are multiple people.

Grammar Girl deals with this ‘me, myself, I’ issue here: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/me-myself-and-I.aspx

BONUS TIP: You could tighten up the first example by removing ‘please direct them to’ and replacing it with ‘contact’ (i.e. ‘If you have any questions, contact Paul or me’), or tighten it even further for an informal email by removing ‘If you have any questions’ and replacing it with ‘Any questions?’ (i.e. ‘Any questions? Contact Paul or me.’)

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[Links last checked October 2012; thanks to Peter C for asking the question!]

3 comments

  1. Rhonda,
    Thank you so much for this post. Being French, sometimes “I” struggle with this. But now with your perfect examples, “I” never will again :)


  2. My dad sent an email with a photo attatched and the print read “grandpa Paul and I in Scotland”.Isn’t the “I” supposed to be “me”?


  3. Yes, as you would say “Me, in Scotland”

    –Rhonda



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