Let me share with you a writing I did back in 2007 and 2010. Why, you ask? Because it seems that no one listened to me then. It is amazing how many speakers I hear, and writers I read – who should know better, yet do not seem to know when to use the pronouns“I” and “me.” Matter of fact, it seems that I see and hear these confused more often now than I did back in 2007.
So, since I read a lot (books, magazines, e-mail, Facebook, etc.) of writing from other folks, to help you keep your “I” out of my “eye” – let me offer this wee bit of grammar advise, just once more:
IS YOUR AUDIENCE AN “Arghhhh!” AUDIENCE, OR AN “Ahhhh!” AUDIENCE?
By Bill Gray
In the mid-1960s, I had a friend who worked as a secretary at Boeing in Seattle. It drove her totally nuts when she heard a person use the non-word “irregardless.” Pulling her hair, she would tell me, “There is no such word as IRREGARDLESS! The word is REGARDLESS, irregardless of what a person thinks!”
I have the same hair pulling urge when I hear a person use the wrong pronoun “I” when that person should be using “me.” You would be amazed at how often I have heard otherwise highly intelligent, highly educated people – in the pulpit, on radio, on television, in person, (now on Facebook) – doing this.
Yesterday, to my amazement, I heard one of my favorite Bible teachers, Dr. Chuck Missler, commit this “fingernail scraping on the blackboard” offense twice in one sentence. As my role model, Charlie Brown, would say, “Arghhhh!”
I cannot tell you exactly what Dr. Missler was teaching, for the distraction over his “I” was total. However, he said something like, “That is totally foreign to you and I. Scripture tells us that this is not right for you and I.”
Now, most likely, many people will not even notice this mistake, nor even care. But, for a person who enjoys writing, a person who enjoys using words to paint ideas and thoughts – that is analogous to an artist using bright red paint when the scene being painted calls for a pastel blue or yellow. I know, I know. Some Friends will ask, “So, what difference does this make?”
And to those Friends, it makes no difference. However, when a speaker is working hard to reach “everyone” in his/her audience, the difference can be a lost or broken train of thought for some, if not many, in that audience – as happened to me yesterday while listening to Dr. Missler teach.
Especially when the error is so easy to avoid. “Pray tell, Bill, how do I avoid this horrendous mistake which so grates upon your ears?”
I’m glad you asked.
This mistake happens most frequently when a writer or speaker is using a compound sentence. A compound sentence is one which is composed of two or more main clauses but no subordinate clauses.
“Bill, Bill, speak English, please!”
Okay, a main clause if one which has a subject and a verb, and can stand alone, i.e., “That is totally foreign to you” and“That is totally foreign to me.” And that is how you may test the sentence to see if you are using the correct pronouns.
When we break Dr. Missler’s compound sentence, “That is totally foreign to you and I” down into its two main clauses, we get, “That is totally foreign to you” and “That is totally foreign to I.” Would you say, “That is totally foreign to I”? No! You would say, “That is totally foreign to ME.”
By the same token, Dr. Missler’s sentence, “Scripture tells us that this is not right for you and I” – when broken down into two main clauses will read, “Scripture tells us that is not right for you” and “Scripture tells us that is not right for I.” How long will it take your audience to get a glazed, void look on their faces when you use sentences such as, “Scripture tells us that is not right for I”?
No, no, no! It only sound right when you say, “Scripture tells us that is not right for ME.”
In the future, so that there will be no glassy eyed people in your audience; so that there will be no one sitting in your audience screaming, “Arghhhh!” – please break the sentence apart in your mind to test it, before you allow it to escape from your mouth. Then, we can all sit back and listen to you speak, with a smile, and a soothing, “Ahhhh!”
Just a thought. Share this with your Friends, Relatives, Associates, and Neighbors – all your FRANs. That way, possibly we will see far fewer people sitting in audiences with large patches of hair missing. Those are the “Arghhhh!” people. And we will experience far more smiling, hair in place, “Ahhhh!” people in the audiences.
God bless, have a wonderful, blessed day,