A reader questions my use of the phrase “myself included” in the following extract from a post on who versus that:
Many speakers, myself included, feel that who is usually the first choice when the antecedent is human, but recognize that its use is a stylistic choice and not a matter of rule. Sometimes that may be the better choice.
Says the reader:
I’m wondering about your use of ‘myself’. I would have assumed it should be ‘me included’. Or have I misunderstood the reflexive pronouns? I’m curious because it’s one of my pet peeves when someone ends an email with ‘if you have any questions, you can refer to myself.’
The reader has not misunderstood the general rules for the reflexive pronouns.
1. A reflexive pronoun is used as a direct object when the object is the same as the subject of the verb: “I cut myself shaving again.”
2. The reflexive pronoun is used as an indirect object when the indirect object is the same as the subject of the verb: “She bought herself a new car.”
3. The reflexive pronoun is used as the object of a preposition when the object refers to the subject of the clause: “My son built our deck by himself.”
Note: The phrase “by + reflexive pronoun” shows that someone did something alone and/or without any help. The same meaning is conveyed when the reflexive pronoun alone is placed at the end of a sentence: “I baked all the cookies myself.”
4. The reflexive pronoun is used to emphasize the person or thing referred to: “The binding itself is worth £50.”
Note: This use of the reflexive pronoun is especially common when the person referred to is famous or powerful: “The Queen herself wrote a note of condolence to her butler.”
The most common errors made with reflexive pronouns are the sort the reader refers to, the use of a reflexive pronoun when the context calls for a plain personal pronoun:
INCORRECT: If you have any questions, you can refer to myself.
CORRECT: If you have any questions, you can refer to me.
The error here is using a reflexive pronoun as the object of a preposition that does not refer to the subject of the clause (you).
Other common errors include the following:
INCORRECT: Jack and myself traveled to Greece this summer.
CORRECT: Jack and I traveled to Greece this summer.
The error is in using the reflexive pronoun as the subject of a verb.
INCORRECT: When you give out the presents, don’t forget Margie and myself.
CORRECT: When you give out the presents, don’t forget Margie and me.
The error here is using reflexive myself as the object of the verb forget.
Although the phrases “myself included” or “including myself”seem to defy the rules they have enjoyed a long history of use by reputable writers.
The Ngram Viewer indicates that “including myself” is far more common than “including me” in printed books.
A Web search for “including me” brings 617,000 results; “including myself” brings 3,890,000 results.
An article by linguist James Harbeck lists fourteen examples of exceptions to the rules. Here are three of them:
You seem like a better version of myself. (object of preposition)
There are two others here besides myself. (object of preposition)
Myself, as director here, will cut the ribbon. (subject of sentence)
Sometimes “including me” is the obvious choice, but in other contexts, a writer may prefer “including myself.” Compare:
Everyone received a lavish gift, including me.
Many scientists, including myself, found the film outrageous in its inaccuracies.
The best advice about the use of reflexive pronouns is to master the rules, but to remain aware that sometimes “nonstandard” myself may be more idiomatic than me.
“If you have any questions, you can refer to myself” is unquestionably nonstandard, but in contexts in which a speaker or writer is espousing an opinion shared by others, “myself included” and “including myself” are established idioms.
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