Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt
As I write this, I’m sitting by myself. For those of you who love being alone in total silence, let me let you in on an introvert pro tip: Hang out in the periodical room at your local library. You’ll either be alone or with (at most) three other people reading today’s newspaper (because they were too cheap to pay for a subscription).
I enjoy being by myself. But the word “myself” gets misused more and more as a result of well-meaning people who are unknowingly over-correcting their grammar.
Here’s an example I hear often: If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, feel free to call Adam, Larry or myself. How would you write this without Adam or Larry in the sentence? You wouldn’t say “…feel free to call myself;” you’d say “…feel free to call me.” Now, if you throw back in Adam and Larry, this doesn’t change. If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, feel free to call Adam, Larry or me.”
You see, myself is a reflexive pronoun. Others include yourself, herself, himself and itself. These words are never subjects of a sentence; they’re always objects. If you want a good way to remember this, think about when you look down to gaze deeply into the water of a placid pond and you see your reflection in it. Your inner dialog would say something like, “I see myself in the water.” In the same way you see a reflection of yourself in the water, words like yourself are reflexive pronouns.
Other than using myself as an object, when should you use myself? Use myself when you are both the subject and the object of the same sentence: I can see myself spending more time hanging out in the periodical room. Here, you’re the object of your own action.
Also, use myself to add emphasis to a statement: I myself locked the door so no one else could get in. Or how about: I wrote this all by myself. In both sentences, you could omit myself and the sentence would still make sense; using myself in these cases adds a dramatic flair.
I encourage you to spend some time to be by yourself; hopefully, you’ll enjoy the company.