Grammar Tip – Is it I? Or, is it me?

Here is a prime example of how language is changing. Traditionally, whenever the verb in the sentence was a variation of the word “to be,” the pronoun following always had to be in the subjective case (I, you, he, she, we, or they) whether you were speaking or writing.

Incorrect

It is me.
It was them.

Correct

It is I.
It was they.

However, the correct way does sound overly formal in a normal conversation. Therefore, when speaking you can get away with this error.

Correct (only when speaking)

Last month the people with the most sales were you and me.

On the other hand, when writing, the grammar books recommend you stick with the rule.

Correct (when writing)

Last month, the people with the most sales were you and I.

Some variations of the verb to be are am, is, are, was, and were.

Isn’t grammar fun?

Grammar Tip – Possession With Compound Nouns and Pronouns

Kim’s question: “In both writing and speaking, how do I refer to something that belongs to more than one person? For example, a report that Bill and I worked on – ‘the report is Bill’s and mine’ or ‘the report is my and Bill’s.’ What is the correct way to state this?”

BizWritingTip response: This is a great question. It involves a standard rule and then the exception.

First, when you have two nouns, it is considered a compound noun. If you need to show possession with a compound noun, use an apostrophe. But where does the apostrophe get placed?

If both nouns own the same thing, the apostrophe is placed after the last noun. If both nouns possess different things, then an apostrophe must be added to each.

Examples

Bill and Susan’s report will be ready for printing tomorrow. (One report)

Bill’s and Susan’s reports will be ready for printing tomorrow. (Two reports)

The report was Bill and Susan’s. (One report)

The reports were Bill’s and Susan’s. (Two reports)

However, when a personal pronoun (I, you, he, she, we or they ) is involved, there is a slight difference. You place the apostrophe on the noun only. Personal possessive pronouns never have an apostrophe as they are already possessive (my, mine, his, hers, ours, yours). Note: The noun comes first.

Example

Bill’s and my report will be ready for printing tomorrow.

The report is his and mine. (Never use an apostrophe with a possessive personal pronoun.)

The report is Bill’s and hers.

The report is Bill’s and mine. (The noun is always placed first.)

Grammar Tip – Quotation Marks: Are you up to date?

Do you have trouble remembering whether to place the period inside or outside the quotation mark?

If so, relax. The North American rules surrounding quotation marks are now quite simple. All periods and commas go inside the quotation marks; colons and semicolons are placed outside.

Incorrect
Time magazine says it’s “the best ice cream in the world”. (I learned it this way when I went to school — but that was back in the days of the dinosaurs.)

Correct
Time magazine says it’s “the best ice cream in the world.”

Correct
Time magazine says it’s “the best ice cream in the world,” and we plan to use the statement in our advertising campaign.

Correct
In the minutes, she recorded, “Paul Smithers agreed to contribute $100,000 to the fund”; we were extremely grateful.

Note: I realize a number of people will be upset about this change. But grammar is not static; it changes with the time. Please, don’t shoot the messenger! I am supported by any North American grammar book published within the past ten years.

Be careful if you proofread your kids’ homework. Following your old rules may cause your kids grief. One workshop participant told me her son lost five marks when she corrected his essay and moved the periods outside the quotation marks. It would have been okay 10 years ago but not today.

Grammar Tip – While … Time goes by

Here’s a challenge for you. For the next week, watch for the word “while.” How is it used? Is it being used in its correct sense of “during the time that”? If not, it’s the wrong word.

Incorrect

While I would like to work on the proposal today, I am too busy.?(There is no time frame.)

Correct

Although I would like to work on the proposal today, I am too busy.

Correct

While I was reading the report, I came up with three new ideas.?(During the time that I was reading the report … )

While you are watching for while, you may catch other errors also.

Grammar Tip – Gerunds

You’re probably now asking yourself what a gerund is. A gerund is a word that ends in “ing.” It is normally a verb, but it is now being used as a noun.

For example, I like writing. (Writing is a gerund.)

The trick with a gerund is that if a noun or pronoun precedes it, it must be in the possessive form.

Incorrect

I appreciate you helping me.?(Helping is a gerund. The pronoun in front must be possessive.)

Correct

I appreciate your helping me. (Your is a possessive pronoun.)

Incorrect

The plane landing on time surprised us.?(Landing is a gerund. The noun in front must be possessive.)

Correct

The plane’s landing on time surprised us.

Possessive pronouns are my, your, his, her, our, and its.

 

 

Grammar Tip – Me, Myself, or I

One of the most common grammar errors you see and hear today is the me, myself and I problem. If you know the correct way of using these words, it is irritating to find them used incorrectly. One of my workshop participants said that the misuse is like having someone scrape their fingernails on a blackboard.

At my local gym, one of the managers – a well-groomed young man – often says “Come see myself.” His verbal image does not support his outward appearance. However, bad grammar is like having bad breath. Many notice and are bothered, but few will point it out.

The concept is quite simple. is always the subject of the sentence. Example: I finished the project.

Me is always used as the object. (The object always follows a verb or a preposition, e.g., in, on, of, by, into, between, with or by.) Example: Please contact me. (The object follows a verb.) Example: The report was written by me. (The object follows a preposition.)

Myself is a reflexive pronoun. It can only be used after a subject or object pronoun. Example: I taught myself how to use the program.

Here’s a quick way to determine the correct pronoun when you have more than one subject or object.

Example: Paul Becevello, Greg Firth and ___________ presented the proposal that was prepared by Tim Paul, Linda Mackay and ___________.

1. Mentally delete the first part of the subject and object.?___________ presented the proposal that was prepared by ___________.

2. Enter the correct pronouns.?I presented the proposal that was prepared by me.

3. Replace the deleted material.?Paul Becevello, Greg Firth and I presented the proposal that was prepared by Tim Paul, Linda Mackay and me.

4. You could also insert the reflexive pronoun for emphasis. It would be redundant, but it would be grammatically correct.?Paul Becevello, Greg Firth and I myself presented the proposal that was prepared by Tim Paul, Linda Mackay and me myself.

One of the most common grammar errors you see and hear today is the me, myselfand I problem. If you know the correct way of using these words, it is irritating to find them used incorrectly. One of my workshop participants said that the misuse is like having someone scrape their fingernails on a blackboard.At my local gym, one of the managers – a well-groomed young man – often says “Come see myself.” His verbal image does not support his outward appearance. However, bad grammar is like having bad breath. Many notice and are bothered, but few will point it out.The concept is quite simple. is always the subject of the sentence. Example: I finished the project.Me is always used as the object. (The object always follows a verb or a preposition, e.g., in, on, of, by, into, between, with or by.) Example: Please contact me. (The object follows a verb.) Example: The report was written by me. (The object follows a preposition.)

Myself is a reflexive pronoun. It can only be used after a subject or object pronoun. Example: I taught myself how to use the program.

Here’s a quick way to determine the correct pronoun when you have more than one subject or object.

Example: Paul Becevello, Greg Firth and ___________ presented the proposal that was prepared by Tim Paul, Linda Mackay and ___________.

1. Mentally delete the first part of the subject and object.
___________ presented the proposal that was prepared by ___________.

2. Enter the correct pronouns.
I presented the proposal that was prepared by me.

3. Replace the deleted material.
Paul Becevello, Greg Firth and I presented the proposal that was prepared by Tim Paul, Linda Mackay and me.

4. You could also insert the reflexive pronoun for emphasis. It would be redundant, but it would be grammatically correct.
Paul Becevello, Greg Firth and I myself presented the proposal that was prepared by Tim Paul, Linda Mackay and me myself.