- On September 10, 2014
Right up there with people saying I when they should say me—and me when they should say I—is the wholesale misuse of myself. Here’s the deal. (If my explanation falls short, Grammar Girl is good and clear on this one.)
Myself (like yourself, herself, himself, and themselves) is a reflexive pronoun and should be used only in two cases.
1. When the action turns back on the subject, as in:
• I hurt myself when I fell down the stairs.
• She embarrassed herself in the presentation when she forgot her lines.
• They brought themselves to tears when they told us how they had been robbed.
2. When you want to add emphasis, as in:
• Because he keeps divorce representations to a minimum, Mr. Zabel often refers cases to his former wife, Eleanor B. Alter, herself a prominent matrimonial lawyer in New York.
• McDonnell told his sons to give back the expensive golf clubs, but then he, himself, accepted a custom golf bag.
• Some followers of Graham Holdings say that Mr. Graham is so devoted to Mr. Buffett’s investment advice he follows it more rigorously than Mr. Buffett himself does.
But myself crops up everywhere—mostly where it shouldn’t. Here’s some of what I’ve seen. I read the last sentence in a book from Harvard about writing college essays. It gave me palpitations.
• I don’t know any mental health experts, myself included, who would refer to a death of a human being as an “opportunity.”
Correct: I don’t know any mental health experts, me included, who would refer to a death of a human being as an “opportunity.”
• If you have a question, come to myself or John.
Correct: If you have question, come to John or me. (If John weren’t available, would you say, “If you have a question, come to myself”?)
• Bob and myself welcome you to today’s meeting.
Correct: Bob and I welcome you to today’s meeting. (Myself can never be the subject.)
• On behalf of myself, and my colleagues in Barnes, I look forward to seeing you on campus.
Correct: On behalf of all of us in Barnes, we look forward to seeing you on campus soon. (No need to say on behalf of myself, which to be correct would be on behalf of me, because you’re the one writing it.)
• Please try to be respectful of the accounts of myself, my family and friends.
Correct: Please try to be respectful of my accounts and those of my family and friends.
• You have been told these five hundred painstakingly crafted words must complete the intimidating mission of distinguishing yourself from the legions of other college applicants.
Correct: You have been told these five hundred painstakingly crafted words must complete the intimidating mission of distinguishing you from the legions of other college students. (Your essay distinguishes you. You distinguish yourself.)