Okay, now that I’ve introduced myself, let’s talk about that headline up there. If you’re like me and edit or proofread for a living, you’ve probably noticed that something about it isn’t quite right.
First, there’s the missing comma. “Hi” initiates a direct address, so it should be followed by a comma: “Hi, Everyone!”
Then, in the next clause, there’s the equally serious matter of the mistaken predicate: it’s in the wrong case. The verb to be in “It’s Me” (hiding behind an apostrophe) is a linking verb; the pronoun that serves as its complement must be in the same case as the subject: nominative, not objective. Linking verbs are like mirrors; they reflect the subject back on itself. It should be I, not me: It’s I, I’m it.
. . . Just kidding! It’s not actually my style to use a comma after “Hi,” and in real life I don’t write (or say) “It’s I.”
Not that I don’t enforce that comma after “Hi” in my role as editor. I do, when it occurs in the context of a published piece. There, I want punctuation that consistently supports the logic of the prose. If we have “Yes, sir,” we will also want to find “Hi, folks.” Readers depend on such consistency, which helps them focus on what they’re reading.
But in my own correspondence? I’m nervous enough already about anything social. Placing an editorially mediated barrier between me and my addressee would only add to my anxiety. I don’t mind, however, when a colleague uses that comma. (“Ah, an editor!”) I simply trust they won’t hold it against me that I don’t.
As for “It’s me,” I would allow such a construction in even the most polished, edited-for-publication piece. It’s been my observation that linking verbs have lost much of their power to dictate terms to the predicate. I think I know how a linking verb works, but they just don’t feel that way to me. I expect an object even after is (almost as if to be expresses an action as much as a state of being), and from what I can tell, so do most people.
In sum, I like to observe the rules, and I generally apply them when I edit, within reason. I just don’t necessarily express myself by the book.
I look forward to all your style queries!
(To submit a question, please use the “Submit a Question” form at The Chicago Manual of Style Online.)
Editor’s Corner posts at Shop Talk reflect the opinions of the author of the post and not necessarily those of The Chicago Manual of Style or the University of Chicago Press.
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Russell Harper is editor of The Chicago Manual of Style Online Q&A and was the principal reviser of the last two editions of The Chicago Manual of Style. He also contributed to the revisions of the last two editions of Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.
Illustration courtesy of ClipartMAX, adapted for this post
The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition