A Reader/Author/Editor/Teacher's Pet Peeve

As a reader, author, editor, and former teacher, I don't think I have any greater pet peeve than having otherwise well-educated people confuse the objective and subjective uses of the combinations "you and I" and "you and me."

For some reason, an awful lot of people apparently have come to think that it's never appropriate to use the latter of those phrases.

Here is the latest instance of such misuse. It came from the pen of a published author of books and articles, seemingly a successful author, who was writing a blog post designed to help other writers to be successful in their writing and publishing efforts.

"Recently a publisher asked my daughter and I to share crafts on video plus patterns for an online event. . . ."

Now I admit up front that I have no idea whatsoever what "video plus patterns" are, but I do know that the grammar was wrongly used here. How do I know? You can run a simple test. Break that sentence into two sentences, each with a single subject like this:

"A publisher asked my daughter. . . ."
" A publisher asked--I?!"

"Certainly not!" you would immediately object. "No semi-educated person would ever say or write such an obviously incorrect thing! It should be 'A publisher asked ME."

Then why do so many people considered it okay to use it incorrectly when it is used with a compound subject? It isn't okay!

In this example, we have a compound subject--the daughter and the author. Using I instead of me shows that the author is confusing the object for the subject.

If this issue is a problem for you (and I dare say it sometimes is), run the simple test I used before you speak or write. If you do, learning the correct way is actually very easy, and you'll seldom make the same mistake again.

Whenever I've dared to point out this error to someone, I often received this dismissive response: "Oh, the editor will correct it. After all, isn't that his or her job?"

That's an unprofessional attitude. Rather, you should be doing your dead-level best to make the editor's job as easy as possible, not to expect the editor to clean up the messes that you could easily avoid making if you applied a little more thought to the writing task.

My reaction upon finding such egregious grammatical errors in a blog, article, or book is to question whether the speaker or author is also as careless about other things, perhaps even his or her main points or factual details. It's sort of like a situation I encountered as an editor.

The author of a technical project proposal wrote that a certain air strip had a grass runway. I, however, lived in the community where the airfield in question was located, and I passed it twice every day going to and far work. I knew that it had an asphalt-paved runway, so I changed the manuscript to reflect that reality. When I got the author-reviewed manuscript back for proofing, he had changed it back to a grass strip. Again I changed it to asphalt. And again he planted grass on it! After several go-arounds and conferences about the issue, I finally let his error stand. After all, it was his contract to lose, not mine. But it made me wonder if he was as careless and inaccurate in his technical specifications and cost estimates as he was in his knowledge of that airstrip. If I had been the one awarding the contract, his proposal most assuredly would not have been the winner!

Do you want to be taken seriously as a writer? Then get the "little" things right. And that could be something as seemingly insignificant as the correct or incorrect usage of "you and I" and "you and me."

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