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Deconstructing You and Me… Or Is It I?

Have you ever used the phrase “Between you and I”? How about “Between you and me”? Which one do you think is right?

If you said the latter, then you are correct. If you said the former, then please read on.

A common hypercorrection [see bottom] is to use the pronoun I at all times when talking about oneself and someone else. Examples:

You and I are talking about grammar.”

“It has always been between him and I.”

“Leave she and I alone, please.”

Just like with any other pronouns, coordinated noun phrases are inflected based on what position they take in the sentence (e.g. if they are objects or subjects). The foolproof way to check if a coordinated noun phrase should be nominative or objective is to replace the coordinated noun phrase (X and I/me) with the appropriate personal pronoun in the plural (we, us, our/ours) or check which case it gets with just the 1st person singular (I, me, my/mine).

  • I & we is nominative and is the subject (replaces X and I)
  • me & us is objective and is the object (replaces X and me)
  • my/mine & our/ours is possessive (this is a little more complicated and will have to wait for another article)

Let’s check this with a few sentences (excuse me while I abuse Glee for these examples; they happen to have a lot of both good and bad examples, and I already had this data set lying around):

“It’s got everything that both you and I love.” — Rachel Berry, season 2, episode 4.

Modified: “It’s got everything that I love.” ORIt’s got everything that we love.”

Looking good, right? “You and I” are the the subjects, because “You and I” are doing the loving.

“He and I are singing a duet together.” — Kurt Hummel, season 2, episode 4.

Modified: “We are singing a duet together.”

Totally works. “He and I” are the subjects, as they are doing the singing.

“You’re probably not gonna beat Finn and I.” — Rachel Berry, season 2, episode 4.

Modified: “You’re probably not gonna beat I.” ORYou’re probably not gonna beat we.” 

I hope this sentence makes you think this is not quite right (aside from the fact that I’ve colored it red). Both options are horrendous, right? This is a typical case of hypercorrection by using the nominative case instead of the objective. “You” is the thing doing the beating, and “Finn and I” are the things getting beaten.

“I thought you and me were an item.” — Noah Puckerman, season 2, episode 15.

Modified: “I thought us were an item.” 

Again, this doesn’t work. “I” is the thing doing the thinking, and “you and I” are the things being thought about.

“Nothing is going on between Sam and I.” — Quinn Fabray, season 2, episode 19.

Modified: “Nothing is going on between we.”

This is probably the most common mistake out there in coordinated noun phrases. A lot of people are under the impression that it should always be “between X and I.” However, when you test the sentence to see if it’s nominative or objective, you will quickly see that the nominative doesn’t work. “Nothing” is the thing going on, and “Sam and me” are the things nothing is going on between.

As I watched the entire season 2 of Glee, I counted 71 cases of X and I and 15 cases of X and me. Out of the total of 71 X and Is, only 9 were in the incorrect case. This is why hypercorrection happens; X and I is much more common than X and me and is most of the time used correctly, so to be safe, people start using the former all the time. Though of course that doesn’t mean you should!


Lexicon:

  • Hypercorrection: when people over-use what they think is a grammar rule. In this case, the use of “me” is believed to be incorrect and is therefore replaced with “I.”
  • Coordinated noun phrase: two pronouns joined together (you and I, she or he, us and them)
  • Subject: the thing that’s doing something.
  • Object: the thing that’s having something done to it.
    • For instance, in “I want him,” I is the subject and him is the object.
  • Nominative: the case of the subject of a sentence (for pronouns: I, you, she, we, etc.)
  • Objective: the case of the object of a sentence (for pronouns: me, you, her, us, etc.).

Rags recently completed a BA degree in English from a university in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. For her final thesis, she researched common breaches of prescriptive grammar on American TV. She does not sit around on Saturday nights counting grammar mistakes on teen dramas for fun.

It’s #CelebrateYourBetaDay!

And we at EBS have quite a few betas to celebrate!

In the past seven months, we’ve worked with some brilliant betas, for whom we are very grateful. They are the ones who have made sure that we have betas manning the EBS desk most hours of the day. Not only do they donate their free time and knowledge to this service, but many of them do regular Boot Camp sessions, which are getting increasingly popular. 

We want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their time, devotion and support. Please take time to check out our front page, which we have dedicated to the many betas who have worked with us from the beginning. We also encourage you to leave some love in the comment section of this post 🙂

Rags & Regina, EBS admins.

10 Tips to Make Your Beta Love You

We want to thank Raum at My Reading Lounge for asking us to write this article and for her very appreciated support since we started our service.  She has a series of Writing Labs posted, and we urge you to check out her site.

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Yes, betas can love, too. A good beta should comment on all the little details that seem off, while giving you some much needed love and care for the baby that took you hours to birth. Your chapters should be filled with red marks, not only commenting on grammar, but also on the fabulously constructed sentences, the intriguing details, and that awesome character flaw you gave Alice. The biggest reason for betas not to show this love is simply obvious grammar errors every writer should be able to avoid.

So what is it that makes your betas want to tear their hair out as they go through your chapter? Here is a list of items that my fellow betas and I have come up with, along with some tips on how to fix or avoid them.

1. Commas around the one who is being addressed. It is the simplest comma rule to learn! When you’re addressing someone, put the little commas around the name/nickname/terms of endearment, etc.

– Example: “Hello, Bella.” “So, slugger, you’re a doctor now?” “Don’t be so stubborn, dear.”

2. Commas before or after dialogue tags: the second easiest comma rule! And what exactly is a dialogue tag, you ask? It is anything following or preceding dialogue (inside the quotes) that describes the manner of the dialogue being presented.

– Example: “Hello,” he shouted. He whispered, “Don’t tell anyone.”

Note: even if the dialogue tag comes before the actual dialogue, there is still a comma, and the first letter of the speech should be capitalized—unless it’s a continuation of a sentence from before the tag. Example: “You would think,” she said, “that he would learn from his mistakes.”

Check here for a list of dialogue tags.

3. Use your spell check! Some spell checkers are better than others, so if you think you have the word right when spell check says otherwise, google it or look it up in a dictionary. A lot of the time, spell check is right. If your word processor doesn’t have built-in spell check, here is a free one online.

4. Homophones. If your spelling is poor, it’s hard to remember the difference between week and weak, or waist and waste (a spelling error I made frequently in grade school, and I still google it whenever I use either one, just to be absolutely sure). A good spell check will put blue squiggly lines if it thinks you’re using the wrong word or phrase. However, for many, it’s just something you have to learn—and good writers should put in the effort to learn it! Google is your friend.

Did you know that if you type in the search bar define [insert word] it will show you the top definitions of that word? And you can click More for more!

Try to come up with mnemonic strategies to learn the difference (like I frequently have to remind my sister, “where and herewere and are”).

5. Notice the changes your beta is suggesting! Often, the beta will tell you why they’re suggesting the change, but when they don’t, try to notice a pattern. When betas can’t be bothered to put in an explanation, it’s usually because the error is so basic or that they’ve already pointed out the rule, maybe even several times. Sometimes your betas don’t even know the rule, but they have learned the pattern from someone else. If you’re not sure why your beta suggested the change, try googling for a rule or ask EBS!

6. Make sure all the tenses are consistent. If you’re writing in past tense, there should be no verbs in the present tense! You can use simple past (write → wrote), past perfect (write → had written), past continuous (write → was writing), or past perfect continuous (write → had been writing). You should also shy away from words like now, here, today, tomorrow, yesterday, this, these, etc. They all indicate present tense and will often break the past tense flow. 

Note—if you’re writing in past tense and/or 1st person, you really shouldn’t be using the 2nd person pronoun “you.” It’s bad form. Many people will tell you to avoid it when writing in present tense and/or 3rd person as well, but I personally say that then it’s more a question of writing style.

Click here for a very good site about verb tenses.

7. Apostrophes. They are only ever used:

– in contractions (you are → you’re);

– to show the possessive of nouns, but never pronouns (the man’s dog →never you’re dog); 

Note that the plural possessive goes after the plural S (The Cullens’ house, his parents’ house, etc.). Some people prefer to add an additional S after the apostrophe (e.g. The Cullens’s house), but if you do, remember to be consistent!

– when something has been removed from the word, like in contractions or when pointing out a g-dropping accent (hitting → hittin’).

The easiest way to remember when to use apostrophes is to ask yourself if you can insert something instead. You’re andthey’re can obviously be changed to you are and they are, you can add a g to hittin’, and the possessive? Well, that is really clever, actually. The possessive apostrophe started out as a contraction of the noun and the possessive pronoun, e.g. this isthe man his dog. This is why it doesn’t work with pronouns; you would never say this is your your dog (not even in the old days)! Clever, right?

8. Overuse of the word that. Did you know that people use that 80% more in writing than in speech? It really isn’t used as often we think. I might be making up the number, but the truth is, it is used too much in writing, and often it can be removed. 

– Example: “the reason that it broke” → “the reason it broke.”

Then of course is the misuse of that where it should be replaced with which. Check Grammar Girl for a good explanation of that vs. which.

However, when in reference of a person, it should always bewho—unless it’s a question of which one you’re talking about.

9. Jumps in time—if there are any in your chapter, make it clear. Either mention it in the text (which can easily be done in 3rd person and/or past tense writing), or mark it off with a page break. If you are suddenly writing a scene that happened three weeks after the last scene and you don’t make that fact clear, it will be disorienting for both the reader and the beta. Same goes for sudden flashbacks.

When writing flashbacks, I would recommend using the tenses and a play on the narrative as a tool to indicate the time change instead of putting whole paragraphs into italics. You’re writing in the past tense? Use past perfect to indicate the event happened further in the past. Writing in present tense? Use simple past or past perfect to indicate that it’s not happening now. Then you can also tone back the dialogue and tell the reader what happened, rather than show.

Don’t know the difference between show and tell in writing?Click here for a great article about the subject!)

10. Use two betas! You can never have too many pairs of eyes looking through your chapter. Even the best novels go through multiple editors and are read time and time again before it goes to print, and still there are errors. Every beta has a different set of skills in her armory, so even if one of your betas isn’t particularly good with commas or explaining the rules of why that comma should be there, the other might be able to make up for that.

Submit your story to Project Team Beta and find a pair of permanent betas that complement each other and fit your style, or you can submit it to Sparkly Red Pen, who will accept up to 5 of your chapters and will work closely with you to help you improve your writing !

There you have it! Some of these tips might look more complicated than others, but the key is to google or ask around. The second or third chapter you submit to your beta might make or break your writer-beta relationship because those will show if you are truly taking in their comments. Once you actively start avoiding the mistakes your betas have pointed out to you, your writing will improve. One day your grammar might even be good enough for you to be able to coach someone else through their writing experience!

We here at Emergency Beta Service encourage both writers and betas to ask for second opinions or grammar rules and to ask when they get stuck on something. It can be for clearing up differences in opinions and confusion or helping the writer improve independently. We are generally available from 7am to 12am EST every day, but follow us on Twitter @emergencybeta for further information about who is on duty and when.
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