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Tip Tuesday #158

Tip Tuesday features writers' tips on craft, research, querying, blogging, marketing, inspiration, and more. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

I just love this clever tip sent in by Dale S. Rogers. Visit Dale at her blog dalesittonrogers, and check out her past tips, including #120 and #142. Enjoy! 

Grammar Problem?  Fix it With Addition and Subtraction

Grammar is complex, and it takes years to learn it correctly. But what if someone has to make a split-second decision and there's no time to pull out grammar books for an in-depth study of the English language?  I know we're talking about grammar, but the answer is addition and subtraction.

My mother taught English for years, and she expected her children to use proper grammar. We learned little tricks that make it simple to add pronouns to sentences. There's no need to complicate or overcompensate. Simply think about how the sentence would be without the new pronoun. Just because one is added, that doesn't mean the first one changes. Below are examples of the most common mistakes.

"Henry and I."  "Henry and me."  Which is it?  It depends on the sentence.

Some people think it's always better to say "I" rather than "me," when there are two pronouns in a sentence, but that's not the case.  I've even heard people on television being admonished for saying, "Henry and me," when it's correct. The person is overcompensating while trying to avoid the slip-up, "That's for me and Henry."  No one says, "That's for I," so why would anyone say, "That's for Henry and I?"  Without getting into subjects and direct objects, let's simplify the process. Subtract "Henry" for a moment, and you have your answer: "me."  "That's for Henry and me."

"Henry and I want to go."  "Henry and me want to go."
It's pretty obvious that "I" is proper this time. You would say, "I want to go," rather than, "Me want to go."  In your mind, add what is understood.  "want to go."  Who wants to go?  "Henry and I."

"Him and I."  "Him and me."  "He and I."
You wouldn't say, "Him is going," or "Me is going."  It's "He is going," and "I am going."  Who is going?  "He is."  "I am."  By adding the portion of the sentence that's understood, you have your answer.  "He and I are going."  "He and I."

It's unusual, but I actually heard someone say, "Henry and I's tickets."  It's also not, "Mine and Henry's tickets."  You wouldn't say, "Mine tickets." It's simply, "Henry's and my tickets."  Subtract Henry or the personal pronoun, and you have your answer.

So the next time you're in doubt, add it in or leave it out.

~ Dale Rogers


Natalie Aguirre said...

Great tip, Dale. Wish I'd focused more on grammar as a kid. Thanks for sharing this.

Beth said...

That's an easy mistake to make. I use exactly this trick when I'm writing and need to know which version to use!

Unknown said...

I think grammar is important, and while I am by no means an expert and my daughter is not yet two, I try to speak properly in front of her so she can have more of it as a kid. She won't get it in school; they took grammar out of the MA curriculum ages ago.

I know many people stare at me when I correct her ("good" vs "well" being the most frequent correction--she is only 21 months after all). Maybe it makes me pretentious. I don't know.

One this is certain. She'll grow up with many of these tips. Thanks! :)

Robin said...

Great tip. I'm working on improving my grammar and the adding or taking out method is a perfect way to keep those pronounces straight. Thanks Dale!

cleemckenzie said...

I've been steeped in language structure for too many years. I've become much more a descriptive linguist than a prescriptivist. So when I hear "between you and I" and just make a note that the speaker doesn't know case. It's those kinds of mental notes I use later in dialog. Be careful what you say around a writer; it can and will be used later.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Natalie! And you're welcome!

Anonymous said...

You're welcome! And I don't think it's pretentious at all. Correct grammar should be one of the mainstays of our society.

Anonymous said...

You're welcome!

Jess said...

Great tip (and one that I'll definitely use)! Thanks :)

Tyrean Martinson said...

That's a great tip, and one I'm going to use and pass on. Thank you!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Ooh, this is a great tip! I will definitely use this while writing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jess! And you're so welcome!

Heather Villa said...

Simple math truly works. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

You're welcome! (And it's the only math I can do.)

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you liked it!

Kimberly Gabriel said...

What a great way to explain it!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Kimberly!

Rosi said...

This is a great tip. It's one I used with my students and, hopefully, some of them remember it.

Anonymous said...

I check for agreement by separating the compound subjects and objects.

Kristin Lenz said...

I love how you explained this. It's the same trick I learned at some point - I don't know who taught me, but I'm sure I have a clever English teacher to thank.