How to Live A Selfless Life (Grammatically Speaking)

How to Live A Selfless Life (Grammatically Speaking)

I started my career in a recruitment agency and I was horrible at it. Amongst the harsh lessons it taught me, like “getting on the phone” and standing up until I’d made a pitch each morning, one of the biggest scars I’m left with is “Agency Speak”.

If you’ve ever received an email or a phone call from a recruitment agency chances are you’ve heard it too. I’ve met a lot of recruiters over the years, face to face they all seem to have an excellent command of English and are able to communicate well. However, get them to write an email or leave a voice mail and suddenly you’re transported to some weird quasi-Shakespearean time where “myself” and “yourself” are the main characters in a regrettably tragic play.

“I would be more keen on setting up a long term strategy alongside yourself rather than speculative CV’s”

“…has put myself in touch with yourself following our call this afternoon.”

“Verily kind Sir I prithee may’st I introduceth thou to mine candidate?”

Ok so the last one wasn’t quite real (I might appreciate a full Shakespearean approach though). My point here is why do agencies feel it’s more proper or professional to elongate in this fashion? Is it the desire to seem more important? Perhaps to add gravitas to an email that would otherwise just say “Shall we have a phone call?”.

Some people appear to think that “you” and “me” are too worldly or normal and try to pad them out . They seem to feel “let’s arrange a call between myself, yourself and Debbie” sounds friendlier than “me, you and Debbie”. Whatever the reason be it pomposity or an attempt to build rapport through assumed friendship it leaves me cold.

Rather than just a plain old rant here’s how they should be used. “Myself” is a reflexive pronoun. It refers back to the subject of the sentence.

Use myself instead of me when the object is the same person as the subject. In other words, use myself when you have already used I in a sentence, but you are still talking about yourself. Myself becomes the object.

“I bought myself a new car with my commission!”

“I gave myself a manicure.”

“I’m going to hurt myself if I read any more badly written emails.”

Use myself after a preposition when the object of the preposition is the same as the subject of the sentence, or the when object of the preposition and the object pronoun are the same person.

“I am proud of myself!”

“I did it all by myself!”

“In the interview, he asked me some questions about myself.”

Most of the time the “yourself-myself-itis” that infects emails can be done away with completely just by writing as you would normally speak. There is nothing wrong with using “you” and “I” they are both perfectly professional and proper.

So next time you’re about to hit send on that email why not have a check through and delete some of those extraneous “selves”, how does that sound to yourself?