Myself Included

background image 263

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.

Stop making those embarrassing mistakes! Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips today!

You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!

Each newsletter contains a writing tip, word of the day, and exercise!

You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!

10 thoughts on “Myself Included”

  1. In the example “Many speakers, myself included,…” the speaker is including himself in the group of speakers. Does that not make it reflexive?

  2. I’ve long wondered about the use in British English of the idiomatic “meself.” While part of the popularity of this word can be traced to some kind of sound shift, it may also be a subconscious attempt to bridge the gap you’ve written about between “me” and “myself.” You often hear British speakers saying sentences like these: “I did it meself,” “A lot of people, meself included, think that Chelsea haven’t a chance of winning this year,” and “Harry and meself were sat at the bar when the explosion happened.”

  3. I think that maybe the only reason we can bear to hear “myself included” is that we are used to it. It is still grammatically incorrect, and should be “including me.” Maybe this sounds too informal or not important enough, especially for public speaking, which is when this phrase pops up a lot, I see this in my medical transcription all the time. “The patient was seen by myself,” “the patient was examined by myself,” etc. If they would use the active form, “I saw the patient” and “I examined the patient,” it would be much better. I could certainly see “I myself examined the patient,” depending on context (for example, the attending surgeon using it for emphasis, meaning that the patient was not examined by a nurse or resident, even in her presence). When I come across this construction, I change it to “me” when that is appropriate and grammatically correct. I am guessing people just don’t know any better and should therefore subscribe to DWT!

  4. Thank you for this helpful summary! I’d add a minor quibble, that the “-self” pronouns used in sense #4 are usually called “intensive” rather than “reflexive,” because they intensify the emphasis on the antecedent rather than reflect back on it. It’s a minor distinction of terminology that may or may not be helpful in remembering proper usage.

  5. I think the article’s conclusion that, “’…myself included’ and ‘including myself’ are established idioms” sums it up nicely. Remember that idioms need not conform to rules of grammar or even logic (falling “head over heels” comes to mind.)

    As for Andy Knoedler’s question, I would supposed that “meself” is simply an extension of the substitution of “me” where “my” belongs common to some British dialects or slang, e.g., “I got blisters on me fingers.”

  6. To emphasize one’s inclusion in a collective subject, we normally (and correctly) use a clause beginning with either a gerund or a preposition. Thus, we have
    – Many speakers, including me, feel….
    – Many speakers, WITH myself [being] included, feel….
    One could conclude that the idiomatic usage results from dropping “with.” We can be comfortable with it if we assume that “with” is implied.

    I would accept “including myself” in speech, but in formal writing, I prefer “including me.”

    Linguist James Harbeck’s examples grate on my ear. I would call his examples not “exceptions to the rules,” but rather, “deviations from the rules.” Rather than defining standard grammar, linguists identify variant usages.

  7. This may help you decide whether “myself” is correct – replace it with “himself” or “herself”. If himself or herself doesn’t work, myself doesn’t work either.
    Also, think of it this way – “me” or “I” tells the reader or listener the “who” , but “myself” tells the reader or listener the “how”.

  8. I think accepting this “idiom” in formal writing (I just ran across it in the NY Times) adds to its increasing and much more general misuse. A while ago I decided to test every reflexive usage I heard or read over a few days. Of 29 usages only one was correct.

    On the page following the one with the “including myself” usage in the Times, there was the following: “…that will begin to make parts of the planet uninhabitable for mammals like ourselves”. Extremely common now are phrases like: “He gave one to John and another to myself.” Awful

  9. After reading all of the above, it still doesn’t explain whether or not the phrase, “myself included” is grammatically correct.

  10. Patrick,
    The grammatical rule is that “myself” should not be used in place of “I” or “me.”

    However, in some contexts, “myself included” is idiomatic. Idioms do not have to be grammatical.

Leave a Comment