Me, Myself, and I - Business Grammar Rules Explained

Mary Cullen
Post by Mary Cullen
Originally published April 30, 2021, updated August 17, 2022
Me, Myself, and I - Business Grammar Rules Explained
 

Me, Myself, and I errors are one of the most common business grammar errors we see in business writing training sessions.

What is the difference between me, myself, and I?

I recently found this illustrative error reading one of my favorite blogs (unnamed now, since I don't want to link the error to this otherwise wonderful blog):

Can you find the error?

My sister-in-law and brother surprised Eric and I with some personalized cards along with a rubber, address stamp this week from Nameless Print.  The text on the cards is coral — one of my favorite colors and also the color of the bridesmaid dresses along with the rubber stamp ink.  I was semi-dreading writing out all the thank you cards from the wedding (my handwriting leaves a lot to be desired), but after receiving these, I think I may enjoy it a little.

The error is here:

My sister-in-law and brother surprised Eric and I with some personalized cards along with a rubber, address stamp this week from Nameless Print.  The text on the cards is coral — one of my favorite colors and also the color of the bridesmaid dresses along with the rubber stamp ink.  I was semi-dreading writing out all the thank you cards from the wedding (my handwriting leaves a lot to be desired), but after receiving these, I think I may enjoy it a little.

It should read:

My sister-in-law and brother surprised me and Eric with...

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Grammar rules

According to The Gregg Reference Manual and AP Style Guide:

Use I, we, you, he, she, it, they (nominative/subject form personal pronoun):

When the pronoun is the subject of a verb.
I wrote to Eileen McIntyre.
 

Use me, us, you, him, her, it, them (objective form personal pronoun):

When the pronoun is the direct or indirect object of a verb.
Larry gave Maris and us tickets for the opening.
My sister-in-law and brother surprised me and Eric with...

 

The reflexive personal pronoun myself gets tricky but just remember that myself is always used as the object of a sentence and/or as an intensive pronoun to add intensity to a sentence. Myself is never used as a subject pronoun.

All personal pronouns have a matching reflexive pronoun:

 
me — myself
you — yourself
you — yourselves
her — herself
it — itself
he — himself
one — oneself
our — ourselves
they — themselves


An easy rule to remember is that the reflexive pronoun myself is always used as the object of a sentence, never the subject.

I (subject) see (verb) myself (reflexive objective pronoun) eating a big chocolate cookie. 
You'd never write "Myself ate a big chocolate cookie."
 
Use myself to direct the action expressed by the verb back to the subject.
She found herself the only one in favor of the move.

Use myself as an intensive pronoun to highlight a noun or pronoun already expressed.
I will contact her myself.
"I will contact her" has the same meaning, but adding "myself" adds intensity.

Me, myself, and I grammar tip

Below are two tips that will help you avoid this common me/myself/I business grammar error.

  1. Simply omit all words between the subject/verb and pronoun:
    My sister-in-law and brother surprised Eric and I.
    My sister-in-law surprised I ... sounds odd to the ear. You'll know immediately that My sister-in-law surprised me ... is correct. Omit the injected words for a quick check.

  2. If you were, for some odd reason, rarely allowed to include myself. So, if you are confused, just don't use myself unless you are certain the usage is correct.

    This way, you will never write the common error:
    Please send the report to myself and Karen.

    You will know that the correct sentence is:
    Please send the report to me and Karen.
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Mary Cullen
Post by Mary Cullen
Originally published April 30, 2021, updated August 17, 2022
Mary founded Instructional Solutions in 1998, and is an internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach with two decades of experience helping thousands of individuals and businesses master the strategic skill of business writing. She excels at designing customized business writing training programs to maximize productivity, advance business objectives, and convey complex information. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Rhode Island, an M.A. in English Literature from Boston College, and a C.A.G.S. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of New Hampshire.

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