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Prose Parade
Grammar and writing basics

November 21, 2010

-self, -selves

Why do people use words like myself, yourself, etc. when they mean I/me or you? Do they think it’s more elegant or even self-effacing? Well, they’re wrong, and they’re annoying me.

So, here’s the rule.

These words are called reflexive pronouns because they reflect on or refer to another word in the sentence that is directly related.

For example, “Susan thought highly of herself.”

See? “Herself” refers to Susan. Why she thinks highly of herself is another matter entirely.

The one that really yanks my chain is “myself.”

Wrong: Keep this just between you and myself.

Oh, for heaven’s sake, what’s wrong with “me”? In fact, that’s the right word. “Myself” doesn’t refer to anything. (And by the way, using “I” in that sentence is wrong too.)

Right: Keep this between you and me.

That’s elegant, not at all self-promoting and correct.

Or how about: Myself and John are going to the movies.


Right: John and I are going to the movies.

Again, simple, elegant and correct.

And just because I didn’t give examples of himself, itself, ourselves, themselves doesn’t mean the rule doesn’t apply. It does.

July 23, 2010

Every day/Everyday

Yes, people, they are two (well, actually, three) different words with two different meanings. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen them used incorrectly on huge billboards, TV, newspapers and magazines. Jeesh.

So, in the interest of my sanity:

“Every day” (two words, a noun and an adjective) means each day. For example, “Brush your teeth every day.”

Everyday (one word; an adjective) means ordinary or commonplace. For example, “Brushing your teeth is an everyday occurrence.” (At least, I hope so.)

So, are we clear now?