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I? Me? Oh, My!

Driving from Portland to Seattle today, I heard an on-air radio apology about–of all things–grammar.

Steve Scher, host of KUOW’s Weekday, had said something like this on air: “Call in with your questions for Carl or I.” A listener then emailed Steve a strongly worded correction, letting him know it should have been “Carl or me.”

Was the listener correct? Yes! Steve read the email, apologized, and corrected himself.

But if it weren’t for organic gardener Carl Elliott in the studio, Steve would never have gone astray. People only make this mistake with compound subjects and objects. Steve would never have said “Call in with your questions for I.”

That’s how you can tell whether I or me is correct–by simply eliminating the other person. Examples:

He gave David and I a ride.
He gave I a ride? Never!

Me and Grace met yesterday.
Me met yesterday? Not a chance.

Whenever you get stuck wondering whether the correct pronoun is I or me, she or her, he or him, etc., just eliminate the other person. The correct pronoun becomes obvious.

Do you have a question about grammar for me? Please send it.

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

One comment on “I? Me? Oh, My!”

  • Poor grammar is a problem that many writers encounter. The trick to correct it is regular reading. Through reading, writers can enrich their vocabulary and get their grammar right on their first attempt. Many writers can improve the quality of their writing by reading through their piece at least once after they finish it and correct all the mistakes. Another option would be to have another person go through your piece of writing to criticise it constructively.

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