Business Writing Tip #23 – Be careful with your choice of pronouns

Pronouns seem to confuse people but they’re really not difficult. The form of the pronoun that you need to use depends on whether it is a subject or object in the sentence.

1.  If it’s a subject, it performs the action.

Use I, he, she, they , we, who.

2.  If it’s an object, it receives the action.

Use me, him, her, them, us, whom

Not really so confusing, is it?


Here’s an example with an incorrect sentence, and a way to work out if it’s incorrect or not, and how to fix it by stating the unstated verb.

Incorrect: Jacob is older than her.

To work out if it’s correct, put in the verb that is understood, not stated.

Jacob is older than she is.

So the correct pronoun is she.

Correct: Jacob is older than she.

Another example where the confusion comes from having a list of nouns.

Incorrect: The competition judges awarded certificates to Carol, Ziad and myself.

To work out the correct pronoun, just remove the others from the list.

Incorrect: The competition judges awarded certificates to myself.

Wrong. You wouldn’t say that, would you? You would say they awarded certificates to me.

The correct sentence is:

The competition judges awarded certificates to Carol, Ziad and me.

This second error, using myself incorrectly, is very common. I see it just about every day, and hear it more often. To make sure you’re not making the error, just take the others from the list.

If you’ve written, ‘Please copy it to John and myself’, think about how you would say it if you took John out. ‘Please copy it to me.’ Put John back in and it’s still ‘me’.

Here’s a useful chart of pronouns that was put together by Kaye Mastin Mallory. It includes a handy row with an example where you can test which pronoun to use.

Copyright (C) Kaye Mastin Mallory / English-Zone.Com

Writing well is not just something that you do for pure delight. You may, in fact, hate writing. But your business writing is a reflection of your organisation and its brand. Potential customers will judge your organisation on the messages they receive. If they are full of poor grammar, typing errors and spelling mistakes, your potential customers may think that your work is shoddy, not up to par. Pronouns may seem like small things, but it’s important to get them right.

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