LawProse Lesson #174: Me, Myself, and I

LawProse Lesson #174: Me, Myself, and I

Me, Myself, and I. A pervasive uncertainty about pronoun cases has led to the rampant use of myself as a stuffy substitute for I or me. Not this: Taylor and myself attended the settlement conference. But this: Taylor and I attended the settlement conference. Not this: Please send the signed contract to Cynthia or myself. But this: Please send the signed contract to Cynthia or me. The better practice is to use myself in only two ways: intensively or reflexively. Use the intensive pronoun to add emphasis {I myself will write the first draft of the brief} {I will write the first draft myself}. In those sentences, myself emphasizes that I will write it without help from anyone else. Or use the reflexive pronoun when the subject and the object are the same {I excused myself from the meeting} {I stopped myself before speaking in her defense}. Myself reflects I in those examples. This is also true when the pronoun is the object of a preposition {I prepared the presentation by myself}. The same rule applies to the other reflexive pronouns (herself, himself, itself, oneself, yourself, ourselves, themselves, yourselves): don’t use them in place of personal pronouns when the subject is different from the object. Not this: That’s for ourselves to decide. But this: That’s for us to decide. [the subject is that] Not this: Explain the proposed argument to me and herself. But this: Explain the proposed argument to me and her. [the implied subject is you] With these principles in mind, decide for yourself when to use myself. Further reading: Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 595 (3d ed. 2011). Garner’s Modern American Usage 553, 665 (3d ed. 2009). The Chicago Manual of Style §§ 5.48-5.49, at 216-17 (16th ed. 2010). The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style § 10.9, at 178-79, § 10.21, at 190, § 12.3, at 294 (3d ed. 2013). Thanks to Ivy B. Grey, Bob Lyon, and Peter J. Zomber for suggesting this topic.

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