When Should "I" Come First?

I and several readers were communicating recently about the practice of putting “I,” “me” or “my” first in a compound-noun phrase. In fact, two back-to-back emails posed the same question: Isn’t it wrong to put oneself first in a compound subject?

For example, Carol in Glendale had come across a passage to the effect of “I and my 13 fellow campers.” She doesn’t like that. Can you blame her?

Rod in Burbank found his fodder in this column. When writing about possessives recently, I had suggested the form “Both my and my wife’s families are based here in South Florida.”

Rod was fine with the grammar but still thought the passage needed improvement.

“My objection is a nongrammatical point. I was always taught that ‘I’ came second. ‘My wife and I went to South Florida,’” Rod wrote. Thus, by extension, the same rule that applies to “I” should also apply to “my,” Rod noted.

That would would give us “Both my wife’s and my families are based here in South Florida.”

I agree with Carol and Rod. Both these passages would be better with the first-person pronoun in the second-place position. Here the column I wrote in response.

Tags: ,