'Myself' and Other Reflexive Pronouns
Posted by June on September 17, 2018
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“Myself” can be a pretty controversial pronoun.

Take the following example: “Cindy and myself will give the presentation.”

Word to the word-cautious: People hate that. Even less-awkwardly-worded variations evoke ire: “The presentation will be given by Cindy and myself.”

In sentences that use “or,” the “myself” sounds better. “The presentation will be given by Cindy or myself.” But, really, this poses the same problem: Technically, reflexive pronouns like “myself” don’t work this way.

As idioms, all these ways of using “myself” are fine. No one can say you’re wrong if you construct sentences like these. But if you want to hew as close as possible to the rules of syntax, use reflexive pronouns only for their designated job: referring back to the subject, as in “I taught myself” or “I rewarded myself” or “I sent myself an email.”

Here's my recent column offering a basic overview of reflexive pronouns.


And I, And Me: How to Always Get Them Right
Posted by June on September 10, 2018
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In a tweet reposted by someone I don’t know, someone else I don’t know broadcast the following message: “Sending warm wishes to you and your family from Boomer and I.” (Who said technology isn’t bringing us closer together?)

Boomer, apparently, is the cute dog whose picture appears beneath the text. “I,” apparently, is a human who either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that he should have used “Boomer and me.”

But I have a problem with this usage. I’m convinced that, almost without exception, when someone chooses “from Boomer and I” over “from Boomer and me” it’s not by choice but because they believe “me” would be a mistake. They’re wrong. Here’s my recent column offering a simple trick for how to always get this right.



Helter Skelter Apostrophes
Posted by June on September 3, 2018
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I don’t remember where, I don’t remember when, but at one point in my childhood I found myself holding a copy of “Helter Skelter,” Vincent Bugliosi’s bone-chilling account of the Charles Manson murders. I didn’t read it.

I was probably 9 or 10 at the time and not really one to devour 680-page, true-crime procedurals. But there were pictures that, I feel, authorized me to dispense the following unsolicited piece of parenting advice. Hey parents: Don’t leave copies of “Helter Skelter” lying around the house.

Mumble-mumble decades and countless desensitizing movies later, I found the courage to actually read it. I’m about halfway through. (Don’t tell me what happens! I have a good feeling about this Squeaky gal.)

Funny how time changes a person. Back in elementary school, I was shocked by, you know, home-invasion stabbing murders by Beatles-obsessed racist sex cults.

 Today, I find myself shocked by passages like this one: “In this instance, it led to Aaron Stovitz’ being yanked off the Tate-LaBianca case.” And this one: “Manson borrowed Swartz’ ’59 Ford.” And this one: “Ruth Ann answered Gutierrez’ questions.”

And it gets freakier when you consider the context. Those bits were sprinkled among others like “Tex’s orders” and “Susan Atkins’ attorney.”

Thus, halfway through the book, I’m left with just one possible conclusion: The title “Helter Skelter” refers to the method used for forming possessives. Here's my recent column examining when to put an apostrophe and S after Z, X and S

Crooks Don't Need Good Grammar
Posted by June on August 27, 2018
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People often ask me whether good grammar is important. There’s usually a subtext to their question. It’s, “Validate all the sweat and effort I’ve put into learning how to speak and write properly.”

My pat answer tends to disappoint: Proper grammar is like a nice suit. It might be crucial when applying for that dream job, but you can ditch the starched-shirt formality if you’re going to a backyard barbecue.

Today, I stand corrected. Turns out good grammar and even 10th-grade writing skills are immaterial to one of the most important jobs in the country provided that, along with your resume, you send a mountain of cash.

Behold the language skills of a man accused in federal court of slipping $16 million of other people’s money to one Paul Manafort, while simultaneously seeking a job as Secretary of the U.S. Army.

Stephen M. Calk, trusted custodian of depositors’ savings at Chicago’s Federal Savings Bank — an institution focused on serving veterans with home loans and the like — submitted his application materials to Manafort well after the latter was officially removed from the presidential team. This was around the same time he approved $16 million in loans to Manafort.

And it gets worse, as I explain in my recent column.