The Grammar Factor, February 2012 – when to use I and me

I and me

A couple of readers emailed me about when to use I and me. If you listen closely to people speaking, you’ll realise that many people use pronouns incorrectly and most listeners don’t notice or care.

But when we write, even in emails, we should take more care. So here are some rules.

I = subject of a verb.
I (subject) looked at him (object).

Me = object of a verb.
He (subject) looked at me (object).

Many people use these pronouns correctly when they are just talking about themselves, but go wrong when another person is in the sentence. For example:

They were teasing her and I about going back. (incorrect – her is the object of the verb ‘teasing’, therefore I should be me, the other object of the verb).)
They were teasing her and me about going back. (correct)

Michelle and me are making clothes for our dolls. (incorrect)
Michelle and I are making clothes for our dolls. (correct)

Sometimes it helps if you take the other person out of the sentence to see which pronoun you would use. That is the correct one.

I am making clothes for our dolls.

Out of respect, we usually put the other person first.

Benjamin and I are going to the movies. (correct)
Me and Benjamin are going to the movies. (incorrect and impolite)

Typos

Typos are often harder to spot when first and last letters are the same. Some of you may remember the email that circulated a few years ago where the letters in the middle of each word were jumbled, but you could understand the words because the first and last letters were accurate.

I made a typo in my last e-newsletter that you probably all spotted but were too polite to say – I used sown instead of sewn. (One reader did comment.)

This week The Sydney Morning Herald made this mistake.

‘As deals dry up and the bonus pool shrinks, bankers are fighting it out for a slither of the action.’

Proofreading software for professionals

This software generates a report outlining possible inconsistencies within a document.

You can download a free trial for 30 days at http://www.intelligentediting.com/default.aspx

I haven’t used it so if you try it let me know what you think.

Visuals versus words

Sometimes visuals are more powerful than words. Take a look at a visualisation of US debt at http://usdebt.kleptocracy.us/

I am writing an article for Chartered Secretaries Australia about how to combine words and pictures well. I would appreciate your suggestions – email mary@themfactor.com.au

Macmillan Dictionary competition

The winners of the Macmillan Dictionary competition for best language website and blog in 2011 were:

Blog: Luke’s English Podcast – for learners of English.

http://teacherluke.podomatic.com/

Website: Wordsmith – offers a word a day e-newsletter.

http://wordsmith.org/

Word of the year

Macquarie Dictionary has announced burqini as the Word of the Year 2011.

Burqini: noun, a swimsuit designed for Muslim women, comprising leggings and a tunic top with a hood.

It is also a registered trademark.

Quotes of the month

A friend recently read a biography of A.A. Milne (author of Winnie-the-Pooh) and sent me a couple of A.A. Milne quotes.

Punctuation
‘I do feel strongly that punctuation is a matter entirely for the author. It is not an exact science like spelling. Don’t let the printers interfere with my punctuation. Right or wrong, it’s my own.’

Importance of context
‘It is not very interesting to read in a letter: “It has been raining steadily all day.” But if the letter is signed Noah and dated 3000 BC, then it is different.’

 
 

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