Allow me to introduce ‘myself’

I can take a photo of myself, but you can’t take a photo of myself. On the other hand, you can take a photo of yourself, but I can’t take a photo of yourself.

It’s not a trick camera at work here, it’s reflexive pronouns. Normally I don’t dig very deep into the parts-of-speech stuff we learned and forgot in grade school, but the term “reflexive” makes it easy to remember how this writing tool works. When you look in a mirror, it reflects your own image back at you. So you use a reflexive pronoun (“–self”) when the person taking action is also the target of that action. If anyone else is on the receiving end, it’s plain old me, you, she, he, us, we and them.

So a woman with an ice pick can stab herself, or she can stab him. But she can’t stab himself. You can tell the garden club members to “please send your checks to me,” but don’t tell them to “please send your checks to myself.”

Sometimes people drop a “selfie” into their writing in an attempt to make it sound more formal or cultured. That’s not now this tool works. Instead of looking cultured, they look like they are using a wrench to drive a nail into the wall.

As for myself, I will try to pay more attention to this. If you don’t care to pay attention, suit yourself.


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