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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Meyerowitz-Katz

Drafting pro tip: "me" is a word in the English language

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

Here's something that makes me angry: when I read a sentence like, "The next day John sent an email to myself and Amy saying blah."

A word that exists in the English language is the pronoun "me". It is used in the first person singular to indicate the object of a clause. For example, "this makes me angry".

The Oxford English Dictionary defines "me" as follows:

"me1 | miː |

pronoun [first person singular]

1 used by a speaker to refer to himself or herself as the object of a verb or preposition: do you understand me? | wait for me!

• used after the verb ‘to be’ and after ‘than’ or ‘as’: hi, it's me | you have more than me.

2 informal used in exclamations: dear me!"

For some reason, an extraordinary number of people seem to be under the impression that in formal English the word "me" should be avoided. So in sentences where the word "me" would be appropriate, instead they use the words "I" or "myself".

Thus I am constantly seeing affidavits or emails saying things like "Joe sent an email to myself", or "Jesse told Dan and I that this happened", or "it happened to myself".

Ironically, while the intention of this writing style is to sound more formal and educated, it in fact conveys the opposite impression. It makes you sound like you don't understand how to write in English.

What's the problem here? I'll start with the word "I". That is the first person pronoun used to describe the subject of a clause, and not the object. For example, "I sent an email to Joe", or "Amy and I told Jesse that this happened".

People do seem to understand that "Joe sent an email to I" is not an acceptable use of the word "I". However, for some reason there seems to be an idea that it becomes appropriate where there is another person the object of the clause. So you will not see "Jesse told I that this happened", but you will see "Jesse told Amy and I that this happened".

To be clear, both are equally wrong. If you would not use "I" when referring to yourself alone, adding someone else does not change anything. If it's "she told me", then it's also "she told me and Joe". If it's not "she told I", it's not "she told Joe and I".

As for "myself", that word is used where you are both the subject and the object of the clause. For example, "I gave it to myself", or "I told myself". It's the same as "himself", "herself", "yourself", "ourselves", etc. Eg, "she and I told ourselves", "he told himself", or "you should tell yourself".

The word "myself" is not used where someone else is the subject. "I told myself" makes sense. "She told myself" does not. It's an awkward way of writing. I originally wrote the first sentence of this post as "Here's something that makes myself angry" to illustrate the point, but that didn't work because it sounds like it is something that I do. Which it isn't. It's something that other people do which makes me angry. Hence the use of the word "me" instead of "myself".

You would not write "she told yourself that" or "Joe gave it to ourselves", so don't write "she told myself that" or "Joe gave it to myself". "She told me that" is a perfectly acceptable sentence in formal English.

So remember, "me" is a word in English. If you want to come across as formal and educated in your writing, you should use it.

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