In a recent article reporting on “e-signatures” for contracts and other documents, this quotation appeared: “How do you know it was me who signed it?”

The proper uses of I and me are among the first grammatical rules that schoolchildren are taught. Yet even as adults, writers and speakers sometimes get it wrong.

The distinction is not that difficult to keep straight. Grammarians call I the nominative case and me the objective case. So use I when you’re the actor: “I’m going to the office.” And me when you’re the object of the action: “Please give the package to me.”

True, a few situations arise where following the rules might create a stilted or pretentious result. “It’s me” sounds more natural on the phone, for example, even if it’s technically incorrect. (Officially, “It’s I” abbreviates the phrase, “It is I who is speaking.”)

Similarly, “How do you know it was I who signed it?” is a trifle awkward. But problems like this can usually be solved via adroit rephrasing. One possible option: “How do you know I was the person who signed it?”

This column brings to mind two movies that were popular when I was growing up. The title of The Egg and I was admirably correct. But Me and the Colonel was ungrammatical. Of course, the filmmakers knew what they were doing.

[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]

Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant for more than 30 years. He may be best known for his headline “Speak Spanish [French, German, etc.] Like a Diplomat!” This familiar series of ads sold spectacular numbers of recorded foreign language lessons for Audio-Forum, generating revenues that total in the tens of millions of dollars. In the process, the ad achieved the status of an industry classic. Don’s work is mentioned in three major college advertising textbooks, and examples of his promotions are cited in the books Million Dollar Mailings (1992) and World's Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters (1996). In a column in Advertising Age, his name was included in a short list of direct-marketing “superstars.” He has a parallel career as a writer on language and wordplay. His celebration of spoonerisms, Cruel and Unusual Puns (Dell, 1991), received rave reviews and quickly went into a second printing. His second book was Acronymania (Dell, 1993). Recently, Don retired from full-time copywriting in order to focus on other interests, including his passion for “recreational linguistics.” He is at work on a new book in that genre. He is a regular contributor to the magazine Word Ways and writes “The Language Perfectionist,” a weekly column on grammar and usage, for Early to Rise. Don is author of The Versatile Freelancer,an e-book from American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI) that shows copywriters – and almost anyone – how to diversify their careers into consulting, training, critiquing, and speaking.