Simple, clear help for your writing problems

I rank confusion with the words I and me among the most inexcusable writing problems. Do you have this problem? Are you aware whether you have it? Even very unskilled writers recognize misuse of these words, and you lose credibility quickly (or at least you annoy your readers) when you pick the wrong words.

I’ve never met someone who chooses incorrectly when speaking about only one person. For example, no one accidentally says—or writes—Me am going to the zoo or Please give that to I. However, many writers get confused when two or more people creep into the conversation.

You and Me Can Fix our Writing Problems

That subhead refers to two people: You and Me. Its flaw is obvious. It should read, You and I can fix our writing problems. It’s obvious because you can easily chop off the phrase You and and read the rest of the sentence as if it referred only to you: Me can fix my writing problems. Gibberish.

The example reveals a simple strategy: When you refer to yourself along with one or more other people, cut the other people out of the sentence and decide whether it sounds right. If you can’t make it sound right with I, substitute me and vice-versa. When you find the correct word, put the other person or people back into the sentence. Here are some more examples:

Me and the programmers…

Me and the programmers design all the interfaces for our software systems.

Remove and the programmers from the sentence and you get:

Me design all the interfaces for our software systems.

It’s nonsense; the correct word choice is I as in the following sentence:

I and the programmers design all the interfaces for our software systems.

Janet and I…

He ripped seven pages out of a book that belongs to Janet and I.

Remove Janet from the sentence and it reads:

He ripped seven pages out of a book that belongs to I.

The correct word is me; the sentence should read:

He ripped seven pages out of a book that belongs to Janet and me.

Practice to Reduce your Writing Problems

Here are some sentences for you to evaluate. I’ve used underlines in place of the key words. You decide: should each blank contain the word I or me?

  1. My husband and ___ were very upset by the condition of the flowers.
  2. The condition of the flowers really upset my husband and ___.
  3. ___ and my dog are going for a walk.
  4. The presentation was just perfect for the commissioner and ___.
  5. The commissioner and ___ felt that the presentation was perfect!

If these gave you trouble, review and practice. Whenever you use I or me in a sentence, do this:

  • Break the sentence down so it’s talking about you and you alone.
  • Decide whether I or me works in the reduced sentence.
  • Rebuild the sentence to include whoever else is supposed to be in it.

Here are the correct words for the blanks in the practice sentences above:

  1. I
  2. me
  3. I
  4. me
  5. I

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