I’ve been called a Word Nerd, a Grammar Nazi, and the Punctuation Police. I’m not sure if they were meant as insults, and I don’t really care. A clever turn of phrase or well-crafted pun can make my day. If you use “there,” “their,” and “they’re” correctly, we can be friends. If you know who Lynne Truss is, let’s get together for a coffee or a glass of wine and talk about how we can get her canonized as a saint!
I am not a professional grammarian. I’m not even sure such a profession exists. (Note to self: look into that.) I’m just someone who loves language and has a deep respect for proper word usage, grammar, and punctuation. Believe me, I make mistakes like everyone else. Those of you with sharp eyes will no doubt spot plenty of foibles in my blog. Please feel free to point them out.
The rules of the English language have always come naturally to me. In fact, one of my biggest mistakes was taking Advanced Grammar as an elective in high school. (Nerd.) It made me overthink things that used to just roll off my pen onto the paper without much effort. As a result, to this day I often second-guess my writing and have to look up certain things.
At least I care enough to look them up. There have always been, and always will be, people in the world who have trouble expressing themselves verbally or in writing. There’s no shame in that. What bothers me more is the fact that many people simply don’t think it’s important.
Is it important? In the grand scheme of things, probably not. But I am a rule follower, so the disregard of simple grammar and punctuation rules annoys me. Much like not using your turn signal or not putting the shopping cart in the cart corral where it belongs, it’s just lazy. It’s just not that difficult to learn the rules. And to learn when it’s acceptable to break them; like beginning sentences with “but” and “and.” (See what I did there?) (Nerd.)
Now that all my preliminary editorializing is done, I’d like to talk about my first Write Right Monday Night topic:
“I” versus “me”
At some point, most of us were corrected for using the word “me” when we should have used “I.” It was probably a teacher in about 3rd grade, and most likely happened after we said something like “Me and Johnny are going to ride our bikes to school.”
If you were like me, once you caught on to the fact that it should be “Johnny and I…” you felt incredibly smart and enjoyed correcting your less enlightened siblings every time you heard them saying “Me and Johnny…” (Nerd.)
Here’s the thing though – “I” is not always correct. There are times when “me” really is the correct word to use. I hear “I” used incorrectly by adults all the time. I see it in the newspaper and hear it on TV – even by reporters and others in the public eye who speak for a living.
If you’re not sure whether to use “I” or “me” in a sentence, there is an easy method to decide. You don’t even have to know a pronoun from a protractor. It’s also an easy way to tell someone who insists on using “I” why they are wrong without making them feel like a moron.
Simply take the other person out of the sentence.
Here’s an example:
Johnny and I are going to ride our bikes.
Take Johnny out of the sentence. Would you would say “I am going to ride my bike” or “me am going to ride my bike”? “I” is the obvious choice.
I see incorrect usage more often when the culprit is at the end of a sentence:
“Would you like to ride with Johnny and I?”
Again, take Johnny out. Which sounds better “Would you like to ride with I?” or “Would you like to ride with me?”
In this case “me” is correct.
The same principle can usually be used for he/him, she/her and they/them as well.
This may not be news to most of you and I’m not trying to insult anyone’s intelligence. I may be preaching to the choir. But if I’ve taught you something you didn’t know, I’m glad. Go forth and share!
Do you have any grammar pet peeves? Boy, I sure do! You’ll see more of them in upcoming weeks at Write Right Monday Night!