“In the contest between I and me, the booby prize often goes to myself.” This quote from “Woe is I,” sums up my biggest pet peeve.
It’s the missuses of these three words that, as writers, drive us to distraction. “Me, myself, and I,” are the three words that absolutely, make me cringe. As a result, I’ve decided to go on a one person campaign to try to get people to sound as intelligent as they are.
People putting a personal pronoun first. When I was little I remember my father explaining this basic rule to me. “Think of it as stepping in front of someone. It isn’t polite.” You wouldn’t walk up and cut in line. No, you’d wait your turn at the end. Unless you’re in a car and then it seems to be perfectly acceptable to push in wherever they like. But that’s another pet peeve.
The rule: Do not use ME as the subject of a sentence. It must be the object of the verb or preposition. (example “to me” “just between you and me,” etc)
This problem has its roots in childhood. Your parents wouldn’t give you a cookie when you said, “Me want a cookie.” Instead they gently corrected you to say, “I want a cookie.” It planted in your mind that me wasn’t as acceptable as the word I. We begin to think subconsciously—and yes it is sub and not un because you can’t think anything if you’re unconscious—that I is more refined and therefore more correct choice. Not necessarily.
Don’t say—I and John are going or John and ME are going.
Do say—Between you and me or they came to see Bruce and me.
The Rule: self-ish words (reflexive pronouns—yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves) are often used in place of I and me, he and she, etc. It may be laziness, out of habit or, because people just don’t know which is correct so they stuff in a self-ish pronoun.
The rule: reflexive pronouns – myself, himself, herself, itself, themselves, ourselves, yourself, yourselves– should be used only when they refer back to another word in the sentence. Use myself to refer back to yourself (I dressed myself.)
The rule: Use I only as the subject of a verb.
The rule of thumb is to remove the other noun from the sentence and see if it still makes sense.
Susie and me walked across the street. Remove the Susie and and you end up with, me walked across the street. Remember, your mom won’t give you a cookie for this one.
I know this seems so basic, but if you listen to others speak and some write you find the errors glairing. It becomes annoying when you hear the mistakes repeated time and time again on TV and in the newspapers.
Since I’m on the subject I’ll throw in my second teeth gritter. Less and fewer.
Less– a smaller extent, or degree smaller in size, less exact. Often preceded by much or still: not so large, great, or much: less money; less speed. lower in consideration, rank, or importance.
Fewer– a smaller number: fewer words and more action. a smaller number: Fewer have come than we hoped.
In the end if you can count it it’s fewer. If not use less.
Remember kids learn by example and they’re hearing the errors from all sources and taking them as correct. Do a kid a favor, speak correctly.
What are your pet peeve words or phrases?