Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I vs. Me: Don’t Overcorrect Yourself

I recently had the opportunity to present a program for a local writers’ group on “Grammar and Usage for the Modern Writer.” While my main point was that writers must be aware of the changes taking place in our language, I couldn’t resist discussing some of the changes that bother me the most. Many of the writers shared my feelings.

One of the misuses that grates on my nerves if the very common practice of speakers using the word “I” when they should say “me.” I hear television anchors and reporters, politicians, and many educated people making this mistake over and over.

For example, it is not uncommon to hear sentences such as “John invited Sharon and I to go to the movies with Marsha and he.” We’ve heard this type of usage so often, it’s almost beginning to sound better than the correct version: “John invited Sharon and me to go to the movies with Marsha and him.”

It’s easy enough to determine which sentence is correct if you stop and think about how you would word that sentence if you dropped the proper names. Would you say, “John invited I to go with he”? I suspect not.

Even some of my favorite best-selling authors have books in print with this type of error in them. Although I’ll continue to read those authors, I somehow have a bit less respect for them and for their editors.

After all, while it’s not always possible to stop and work out the correct wording before you speak, it certainly is possible to do so when you’ve written something down.

So if possible, think before you speak, and most certainly, proofread after you’ve written.