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Call Out the Pronoun Police

Written by writers-block  |  25. October 2006

By Carol Lynn Thomas Flip through any fashion magazine. You're bound to find an article featuring the fashion police warning us about what and what not to wear. But if you ask me, we should give the fashion police a rest, and in their place send out squadrons of pronoun police. If people were arrested for pronoun offenses, our jails would be bursting at the seams. While I don't really advocate incarceration for mangled usage, I might consider issuing tickets. Maybe that would stem the tide of disrespect that too many among us show for our language. Let's first examine the major offenses committed by talk show hosts, all sorts of celebrities, and sadly, even major network news anchors. Somewhere along the way, an avoidance of the word "me" has developed. Too many times a day I hear mistakes such as these: You'd better keep that between you and I. She said you shouldn't go with my brother and I because you'll cause trouble. The whole project was developed by Andy and I from the very beginning. Before taking one more step with pronouns, let's examine the reasons why "me" should replace "I" in the above examples. There are two families of pronouns with specific jobs that never change. For today, we'll focus only on one family, the one in which "me" is a member.
Objective pronouns
meus
youyou
him, herthem
These pronouns are never the subjects of sentences. They come after action verbs and prepositions (after, at, between, by, down, from, etc.). I invite you to write to me at beaniesonoma@yahoo.com for a preposition list. You'd better keep that between you and I. The preposition is "between." Don't be confused by the words "you" and "and." It's the preposition that dictates the usage. You must choose "me." She said you shouldn't go with my brother and I because you'll cause trouble. The preposition is "with." Don't be confused by "my brother and." It's the preposition that dictates the usage. You must choose "me." The whole project was developed by Andy and I from the very beginning. The preposition is "with." Don't be confused by "Andy and." It's the preposition that dictates the usage. You must choose "me." In fact, cover up "Andy and" and read the sentence again. You would never choose the wrong pronoun, would you? Now let's take a look at pronouns after action verbs. I don't think anyone would make these mistakes.
She smacked I on the head. He followed I home. My sister tickled I until I couldn't breathe.
What about these sentences? Did I show the correct usage by choosing "I" in each one?
Dad scolded my brother and I after dinner. The bees stung Mom and I when we disturbed their hive. My older brother helped Jane and I with our math homework.
No, I did not. Each sentence requires "me" because you must choose an object pronoun after the action verbs: scolded, stung, helped. It seems that the inclusion of another name before "me" causes the confusion. If it helps, cover up those other names to avoid choosing the wrong word. If you've been dancing around the word "me" in the past, confused about when to use it, I hope you're clearer about it now. In a kind of reverse snobbery, "me" has been shoved out of the way by the word "I." Don't be afraid of "me." Using it won't make you sound uneducated. ---------- Carol Lynn Thomas is a columnist for Beginnings Magazine, A Magazine for the Novice writer, (http://www.scbeginnings.com/) Beginnings is published three times a year and is printed exclusively for the new writer. Only never before published or minimally published writers can submit to Beginnings. Questions can be emailed to Jenine Killoran, Editor, Founder and Publisher of Beginnings Publishing, Inc., at: jenineb@optonline.net Carol Lynn Thomas background: BA in English; MA in Education English and reading teacher for 32 years Columnist and fiction judge for Beginnings Magazine Author of Out of Time, scheduled for release on audio on Nov. 6, 2006 from Blackstone AudioBooks Consultant/Writer/Editor of Networds, a publication of the Middle Grades Reading Network, University of Evansville, Evansville, IN

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