You don't have to be brilliant at writing to write a great novel.
Several authors are fantastic at building a story arc, creating gripping plot lines with believable characters, but are not so hot at sentence construction or grammar.
And that's okay – because there are people out there who can help you.
From the developmental editor, who will steer you in the right direction when it comes to plotting your book, to the copy editor who cleans up spelling and grammar, there is a wealth of experts out there who are on your side, and just as invested in your book as you are.
Here's an excerpt from a really gripping book I edited recently. The author knew her story was good (and it really is) but wanted the grammar and punctuation cleaned up.
I spent a little time reading through and changed the opening paragraphs from this:
Eight-year-old Daniel Edgar lay on his bed, sore from the welts from his father’s belt. He had overslept by five minutes making him late for breakfast, his father was livid. He tried not to give him the satisfaction of tears, had taken it like a man until he got to the sanctuary of his room where he let all of his emotion unleash. Half an hour later he heard the sound of his mother Mary entering the room, she rushed over to him, kissing his head and soothing him, she softly cried. “Why did you have to be late?” She whispered, “You know how mad that makes him. She gave Daniel some paper and pencils, “maybe you can do some drawing?”
Eight-year-old Daniel Edgar lay on his bed, sore from the welts left by his father’s belt. He had overslept by five minutes, making him late for breakfast – the welts were a mark of his father’s anger.
So many people have great ideas for a story but think they can't write; they're no good at it.
Just have a go! Sit down and type without looking at what you're writing.
Dictate your copy out loud into a speech-to-text app.
It's such an achievement just getting your story down on paper.
Read it through; get a friend to read it through. Does it have potential? Could it become a real book? Will it have readers laughing, crying or hiding behind the sofa?
Then consider getting a professional on board to whip it into shape and, voila, you have a manuscript.
Words that people get confused, part XIII
Predominately and predominantly.
I was going to write a nice little piece about the difference between the words ‘predominately’ and ‘predominantly’, explaining that people often confuse them and that’s understandable.
But now I’ve done some research to underpin my own knowledge and that has thrown up a few issues which actually undermine my knowledge, so this piece will now be a short essay on the evolution of language and how even experts can get caught out…
To begin at the beginning, as a great poet* once said…
I heard someone use the word ‘predominately’ in what I thought was the wrong context, saying something consisted ‘predominately’ of something else.
Ha, I thought, they mean ‘predominantly’.
Let’s look at the definitions:
predominate | prɪˈdɒmɪneɪt | verb [no object]
predominant | prɪˈdɒmɪn(ə)nt | adjective
Now, what I believed, and what the definitions show here, is that something can predominate in a given situation but it doesn’t do it ‘predominately’.
For example, wrens predominate (verb) in the UK as a bird species. They are the predominant (adjective) species. Birds in the UK are predominantly (adverb) wrens.
Fairly cut and dried, yes?
Turns out, ‘predominately’ can be used in place of ‘predominantly’. They mean the same thing!
I dove deeper into this lexiconic conundrum.
US dictionary Merriam-Webster states that the two words can be used interchangeably, which proves to be a contentious position, judging by the comments left on its web page.
The online Cambridge Dictionary, despite providing examples of the word ‘predominately’ used in sentences, says the word isn’t in the Cambridge Dictionary yet.
Wiktionary states that, though ‘predominately’ is the older word (by 100 years, being recorded in use as far back as 1594), ‘predominantly’ is now preferred.
It seems that what happened is that English, having as its foundation several squillion other languages, took two words meaning the same thing from two different languages and kept them both, like a vocab hoarder.
Predominantly is derived from Middle French, while predominately is derived from Medieval Latin.
I think we need to do a little Marie Kondo clear-out of our language so we don’t keep getting confused.
In the meantime, of the two words, the one I will predominantly be using is…
* Dylan Thomas.
Kangaroo words. Turns out they’re a thing. I discovered them relatively recently, and only because they’re an added fun fact in my daily puzzle page app.
But now I dig deeper I discover there’s a whole website devoted to them (https://kangaroowords.com*).
So, what is a kangaroo word? Is it one that jumps about on the page? Is it Australian slang? Is it one that keeps a baby joey in its pouch?
No, no and sort of.
Yeah, sort of.
According to the website, a kangaroo word is one that ‘contains letters of another word, in order, with the same or similar meaning’.
So it sort of contains a baby joey word in the pouch of the bigger word.
That’s literally why they’re called kangaroo words.
p R O m e n A D e
You can see the word ‘road’ picked out as capitals in the synonymous word, promenade.
Another good one is C o n T A I N e r, which, erm, contains two synonyms, ‘can’ and ‘tin’.
That’s known as a ‘twin kangaroo word’, for obvious reasons.
A ‘grand kangaroo word’ is one that has two joey words but one within the other, so even the baby joey has a pouch containing another baby joey.
e x P U R G a t E, which incorporates ‘P U R g E’, which contains ‘pure’.
I’m not going to lie, I love this little wordy gimmick. It was clearly an accidental development but very much suits my penchant for linguistic schtick.
Whoever noticed this particular coincidence** and named it also saw fit to note the ‘anti-kangaroo word’, which is not, as you might think, just two words sitting next to one another, but a word containing a joey word that is its antonym, such as
A n i M o s I T Y.
Animosity here holds the word ‘amity’, a word very much opposite in meaning.
And now you know about them, I’m sure you’ll be going through all the words – yes, ALL OF THEM – with a fine-toothed comb looking for little baby joey words.
*If you do visit this website, you will find it is a veritable rabbit hole of interesting etymological information.
** Ben O'Dell, in an article for The American Magazine in the 1950s, later reprinted in Reader's Digest. Sadly, though I scoured the internet for about 15 minutes, I couldn’t find out anything more about Mr O’Dell.
I was really glad when the summer holidays were over, and I’m a bit nervous we’re now into the school half-term holiday… and here’s why.
Every time someone misused the word ‘staycation’, a little piece of me died.
Okay, I’m exaggerating but only just.
As far as I’m concerned, a staycation is a holiday spent in your home. It’s a stay home vacation. A staycation.
I’m pretty sure that’s the original definition of the word and I’m backed up by various sources❡. Even Wikipedia, that bastion of all things etymological, lol, says: “This article is about a vacation where the people return home overnight. For a vacation taken within one's home country, see domestic tourism.” Burn.
But, increasingly, staycation is being used as a word to mean holidaying in your home country, and that just blows – my – mind.
This only really works for tiny countries such as the UK. Can you imagine being a resident of, say, Corpus Christi, Texas and calling your two-week trip to Tacoma, Washington a staycation?! It’s a distance of more than 2,000 miles. You’re not “staying” anywhere near your home.
Hmm. I’ve just talked myself into understanding why ‘staycation’ can be used in a country the size of the UK, which, compared with the USA, is so small that anywhere you go you are quite close to home. Lol.
But the thing about the UK is that, though it be small, it be mighty. It is rich and diverse in landscapes, environments, cultures, habits, accents, customs, and legends.
The week I spent on the windswept yet beautiful Shetland was nothing like the week I spent surfing* cerulean waves in Cornwall. And that was nothing like the weekend I recently spent in blowsy, buzzing Liverpool. Which is nothing like my matronly and somewhat staid hometown. You get the picture.
That’s my first problem – the claim that staying in the UK, no matter where you might be, is anything like staying at home.
My second objection to using the word so broadly is one involving privilege.
I was six when my mum and dad took me on our first family holiday. We stayed for a week in a farmhouse in Rutland, where I rode a horse for the first time, and saw a grass snake.
That was a holiday. My mum and dad didn’t have much cash and it was such a luxury to go away. Away being the operative word.
My second holiday was between seven and 10, when we stayed in a self-catering cottage, possibly in the Cotswolds. (My memory is so hazy I don’t even remember where it was!) There was a stable door to the cottage and a horseshoe on the wall inside. We were away on holiday.
My third family holiday was at the age of 10, when we stayed for a week in – oh joy of joys! – a hotel in Norfolk. We went boating on the canals, swam in the indoor pool and the other children teased my dad about his Scottish accent. We were, you’ve guessed it, away on holiday.
It wasn’t until I was 12 that I flew (alone! To visit an old schoolfriend) to Ireland, though that was Northern Ireland so still doesn’t count as being abroad☥.
And I was about 14 when my family and I finally made it to the extremely exotic town of Concarneau, in Brittany, France.
When I was in my 20s and living and working in London, I took a week off work and didn’t go anywhere. Or rather, I stayed at home but went visiting a couple of museums every day for a week. It was culturally enriching and hugely enjoyable. That was a staycation.
If you can leave your home and stay on a campsite, in a self-catering cottage or a hotel, avoiding chores, taking time off work, you are lucky to be able to afford to. You are on holiday. Some people don’t get to do that, and when they see folk talking about a ‘staycation’ they had the other end of the country, it can be a bit galling.
Basically, if you leave home, for however long, be it a weekend or a fortnight, you are on holiday. And this is the hill I will die on. 😁
❡ https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/staycation [Although stating a staycation can be taken “near your home” is rather open to interpretation]; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staycation; https://tourismteacher.com/staycation/#0-what-is-a-staycation
* Okay, body boarding. I’m not that cool.
☥ Though I stand to be corrected on this.
What do editors do?
It’s a fair question to ask, especially now we have things like acquisition editors, stream editors, life editors and even clothing editors…
And there are very big differences between the work a, say, newspaper editor does compared with a book’s copy editor.
I have spent more than 20 years as a sub editor*, fact checking copy in newspapers and magazines, cutting copy to fit the pages, ironing out poorly constructed sentences❡, and writing headlines and picture captions.
Now I edit websites and books (primarily fiction and creative non-fiction), and those two tasks are wildly different, too!
In this post, I’ll focus on book editing.
You’ve written your novel, and you’re happy with what you’ve done. But it will always need another pair of eyes before you launch it on the choppy publishing seas, seeking an agent or publisher. When you’ve worked on something for a while, you lose the ability to focus on its detail, or remain critical.
But you’ve heard of proofreaders, copyeditors, line editors and developmental editors. What do they all do?!
The developmental editor looks at the big picture, the story arc. They are not interested in the grammar nitty gritty – they are looking at character development, the strength of the story, whether it progresses, if the themes it contains match the genre the author is aiming for, consistency of viewpoint…
The developmental editor will offer a manuscript critique (aka an appraisal or assessment), which consists of an editorial report.
This does what it says on the tin☥ and can be a report of from two to 20 pages long, looking at character, point of view, theme, plot, pace, narrative style, etc, in greater detail. It summarises how the manuscript can be improved, with suggestions of how to strengthen weaker parts.
A developmental edit can also include an in-file edit, with tracked changes in the margins, and comments drawing attention to the specific bits that need looking at.
Your developmental editor will be able to explain what work they intend to carry out, and how much it will cost.
If you have a story but are not confident in your writing, or how to plot your tale, get a developmental editor on board. They will tease your ideas out and give them a coherent shape.
Your story is finished. You like how it is paced. Is your book ready to set sail on those stormy publishing seas? Nope.
We’re still not quite at the punctuation nitty gritty stage here, but a line editor does look at the sentence structure and writing style to make sure you’re using the best terms and language to convey your story in any one scene.
Are you using the correct point of view to impart a particular mood? Is the narrative distance drawing the reader in or leaving them untouched by your hero’s predicament? Are you repeating yourself? Does your punctuation match a paragraph’s tone?
If you’ve crafted the perfect story and just want to make sure it makes sense, hire a line editor. They’ll pick up the irrelevant paragraph, the scene which doesn’t add to the tension, and the splicing commas that slow the reader down.
The line editor fine tunes your writing to make your story sing.
Photo by George Milton from Pexels
This is where we get down to the nuts and bolts of your book’s structure. The copy editor looks closely at grammar, spelling, syntax, punctuation, etc. They make sure everything makes sense, that paragraphs are formatted correctly, that there are no single quotes where there should be doubles, that style is consistent… But there is a sort of lurching into line editor territory here, and a copy editor will point out where something doesn’t make sense or is ambiguous.
That’s it. Story finished. Edits incorporated. Paragraphs flowing beautifully one to another. Ready to set sail now?
You need that final proofread (a term derived from ‘galley proofs’, the first test printed pages of a book). The proofreader checks for typos, formatting errors, makes sure page numbers haven’t dropped off… It’s basically a final quality check.
So, once your book is a perfectly formed wee kernel of work, have it proofread.
You won’t necessarily need – or be able to afford! – all these services. You decide what you are after and hire accordingly.
Just be clear what you want from your editor and make sure they explain what they’ll be providing – and charging for.
* I was once a deputy chief sub editor, which a friend outside the industry laughed at, calling me the deputy manager deputy manager. He had a point.
❡ Of which there have been mercifully few, thanks to my talented former colleagues and co-workers
☥ Hopefully it will iron out hideous clichés like that one 😁
Who doesn’t love a festival? Who doesn’t love a festival in their home town? Who doesn’t love a festival that encompasses music, comedy, literature, town walkabouts, art and local artists, and the seaside?
That’s what Fringe By The Sea provides.
Fringe By The Sea is an annual festival held in my home town of North Berwick. Now in its 13th year, it began as a week-long offering, stretching to 10 days a few years ago. I have been to various events at the festival every year since it began, and have had the pleasure of very close proximity to artists including Maggie O’Farrell, KT Tunstall, Eddi Reader, Val McDermid, Richard Herring, Mica Paris, Sara Sheridan and Badly Drawn Boy.
North Berwick, just 25 miles east of Edinburgh on the East Lothian coast, has long been a holiday destination for Scots, especially those popping over from Glasgow. The town went through an economic dip in the years before I arrived – not that I’m saying it was my family moving here that led to the town’s resurrection as the Biarritz of the North.
I think it’s called that. I don’t know by whom. I’ll just check…
Well, it’s called the Biarritz of the North all over the internet but I don’t know who coined the term first. However, my research quickly dug up this wee article, about the creation of the North Berwick Ladies’ Golf Club in 1888. It’s an article worth reading because it’s always nice to learn about indomitable women.
Fringe By The Sea has very much contributed to the growing buzz in the wee seaside town. Although already popular with tourists, a usually sedate North Berwick comes positively alive during the festival, with a vibe that reminds me of Brighton. Albeit a very small Brighton. And one with a sandy beach, rather than pebbles.
Last year, due to Covid, naturally, Fringe By The Sea was called off.
This year, though… Boy. The team behind the festival have worked flat out to bring a Covid-safe festival back to town. Rather than erect the traditional Spiegeltent, which sat resplendent in the harbour, events will be delivered in a variety of outdoor venues – in open-sided marquees and tents.
[With the weather forecast for next week looking erratic at best, visitors would be advised to wear waterproofs and hats…]
I’m so delighted to see the festival return. Though there are inevitable worries about Covid not having been totally eliminated, and the natural concerns about crowds of people gathering in the town, the Fringe By The Sea team are working hard to make sure audiences are kept safe.
I’m so confident in their efforts, I am even a member of the volunteer team this year, for the first time ever.
I’ll be donning a FBTS t-shirt and lanyard, checking tickets and making sure everyone is having fun and feels safe. After the past 17 months, it’s essential we remain cautious and responsible but allow ourselves some entertainment and enjoyment – I’d argue that looking after our mental health is just as important as protecting ourselves from Covid.
So, if you’re anywhere near North Berwick next week, do have a look at what’s on offer at Fringe By The Sea, grab some fish and chips from The Rocketeer, have fun and stay safe.
Being a member of the CIEP is great. Not only am I part of a wider industry network, making connections and having access to resources for learning, it means I am also introduced to new ideas and concepts in language and grammar.
I say “new”; I mean ones I hadn't heard of.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere in my blog that I never really learned English grammar, having had the misfortune to go through secondary education in the UK during an odd phase when the government didn't think it might be useful.
I mean, one can go too far – see the recent controversy over teaching eight year olds about fronted adverbials, a concept most teachers hadn't even heard of before they were told it was necessary for schoolchildren – but understanding the structure of language can be useful to aid communication; is especially useful when learning foreign languages; and is even more useful when forging a career in, oh I don't know, writing and editing.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying that I recently learned about zombie rules, a concept I really wanted to pass on to you. Yes, you.
Zombie rules, as I discovered via the CIEP, are “laws” of language that either never existed or are no longer valid.
The latter alternative is thanks to the ever changing nature of language, its evolution through use. Such evolution can be difficult to adjust to, especially for those who were raised in a generation of education when grammar was taught, and the rules were laid out as being hard, fast and incontrovertible.
[Personally, I think different platforms and media require different language. I’m quite comfortable with the evolution of language in blog posts and fiction, for example, though that does leave my own voluble writing style looking decidedly Victorian; but I like formal media such as news writing and company reports to be more conventional. What do you think?]
The former alternative – that some zombie rules never even existed (sorry, we’re back there, several paragraphs ago) – was something I learned many moons ago via the wonderful Bill Bryson. One of the points he made in his book Troublesome Words, and one of the few that stuck with me, was that split infinitives are not a thing.
Some hardcore grammarians aver that splitting infinitives is a big no-no. “To boldly go” is a split infinitive, which I assume means hardcore grammarians can’t watch Star Trek without flinching.
An infinitive is a verb, preceded by the word ‘to’; eg, to go, to walk, to push. A split infinitive happens when you place an adverb or adverbial phrase between the 'to' and the verb, eg, to boldly go, to casually walk, to gently push.
Bill explained how a split infinitive was not and could not be a thing – it was a rule invented by Victorians, who said that since infinitives aren't split in Latin, they shouldn't be in English.
But this is a nonsense, since the reason Latin infinitives are not split is because they cannot be. A Latin infinitive is one word! For example, ‘to walk’ is ambulare, ‘to push’ is ventilabis.
The myth of the split infinitive is only one zombie rule – there are many more listed in the CIEP's link below.
But* why am I bothering with the concept of zombie rules and why are they a problem?
Here’s what the CIEP says:
Zombie rules stalk the language landscape, disorientating editors and proofreaders, restricting writers’ ability to express themselves as they would like, encouraging an elitist approach to language use and causing fights between wordsmiths
Fights between wordsmiths are really ugly affairs to be avoided at all times, involving broken pencils, torn pages and syntactic insults.
I think it's the repression of writing style that makes zombie rules undesirable.
I read masses of Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope as a teenager, and went on to study 19th century literature. I mean, I’m not knocking these guys, and they certainly directed my own writing style – ie, long-winded – but there isn’t a huge degree of variation of writing style in that period.
Nowadays, however… the diversity of style and tone is just a delight. And that’s because we don't have to stick to turgid rules to tell our stories.
The thing is… rules are great to form a foundation, a sort of building structure for writing, a frame to support the novice.
Children learn language because they are led by rules. They apply the rules they absorb to find their own way. (As an aside, when I was little, I thought “cheese” was plural, so would ask for a chee with my apple.) When a child unconsciously applies the rule they don't even know is a rule to the sentences they construct, it’s really quite incredible to hear.
But once language is embedded and communication comes naturally… What need for hard and fast rules? Why break pencils and sling insults over a split infinitive.
Disclaimer: there are some rules I do find hard to give up. During a period freelancing at the Financial Times, the editor told me not to use the word “over” in a sentence such as “over the past 10 years”.
“You go over a fence,” he said. “It’s ‘during’ a period of time.” He was an FT editor. That rule sticks.
In fact, as I scroll through the list of zombie terms the CIEP says are unnecessary, there are several I use and would feel uncomfortable giving up!
And here’s the kicker – I would feel uncomfortable giving them up. But it doesn't mean all writers should be forced to abide by these rules. In my own writing, I’ll stick to the language I know and with which I am comfortable. But as an editor, I rejoice in other voices, in rule breakers and diversity, and am happy to adjust to the evolution of language.
I’m going to carry on picking and choosing my rules, but you go ahead and kill those zombies dead.
* I just broke a zombie rule!
Knowing when to use “affect” or “effect” is a real stumbling block for many people.
Generally (though not always, which I shall come to later), affect is a verb and effect is a noun.
The definition of affect is “to have an influence on someone or something, or to cause a change in someone or something”.
I came across a great way to remember this – think of the word affectionate. That’s an emotion, a feeling.
So if something is having an impact on emotions or feelings, it affects you.
(Of course, this does also apply to situations, not just emotions and feelings. Pollution affects the state of the oceans.)
The definition of effect is “the result of a particular influence”.
As noted on dictionary.com, since effect can also mean a result, or a consequence, just swap out the word effect with one of these alternatives. “Not having breakfast resulted in her hunger” changes to “the effect of not having breakfast was being hungry.”
So – eating breakfast affects someone’s hunger (because eating breakfast has an impact on a feeling or sensation).
But eating breakfast has the effect of ridding hunger (because it has a result).
Why are they so similar?
Because they both derive from the Latin facere – “to do, make”.
Affect derives from the Latin afficere – “to act upon, influence”.
Effect derives from the Latin efficere – “to bring about, do”.
Which possibly doesn't help too much, and if you take on board all this information it will only confuse matters!
And confusion can also kick in when effect is used as a verb, “to make happen”, eg, “to effect change”.
If you effect change, you are bringing change about.
But if this is all too much, just stick to the definitions and examples at the top of the page.
Affect – verb – having an impact on something.
Effect – noun – the result or consequence of something.
So, corporate social responsibility. That's when big business spends a bit of money in the local community to offset whatever morals it's undermining or harm it's causing with its immense wealth.
Or, as the University of Bath's Tobacco Tactics puts it: "...activity whereby socially harmful companies set their own minimum standards for social performance, enabling them to externalise their costs onto societies and consumers while passing themselves off as socially responsible."
That's what I thought anyway. Before I went into PR I had a pretty cynical view of the whole concept.
You know -- Amazon's Climate Pledge Fund and Philip Morris International's Step Change.
Then, studying for the PR diploma, I learned a bit more about it and saw more of the philanthropic side of things. Appreciated the importance of business paying back.
And then... I started writing the shownotes for podcasts by coaching-in-nature organisation business EarthSelf, and finally encountered some truly conscientious businesses that aren't engaging in CSR just because it's the in thing and their marketing execs told them to -- but because they understand and believe in a wellbeing economy, and the power and importance of supporting community and sustainability.
Companies like SF Bay Coffee, which funds the farmers who produce their coffee beans, and has so far built more than 63 schools, 1,700 housing communities and more than a dozen medical centres.
And Sheets & Giggles, which gives 1% of its profits to impactful non-profits in the local community, last year donated 20% of its revenue in one weekend, between Purple Friday and Cyber Monday — totalling more than $17,000 — to the World Wildlife Fund, and plants a tree in the US for every order it receives.
And Scott Bader's 2036 Vision, which annually donates 80% of its 'Scott Bader Commonwealth' income as grants to charitable activities and projects around the world.
And, last but not least, my client EarthSelf itself, which was the reason I discovered these great companies and was reinvigorated by the idea of what could be done -- what IS being done -- to deliver sustainable business.
EarthSelf's partnership with social enterprise B1G1 saw it marking our working relationship by donating a woman in Tanzania a week's worth of finance and business training.
Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 70% of people living below the poverty line, and 16% of children under five being malnourished.
The partnership work B1G1 offers businesses helps women build their own businesses through education, business training and access to financial services. This, in turn, uplifts their families and communities to help pave the way for a sustainable future.
This is true social responsibility; one that corporates and big business should all engage in.
In fact -- I'll practise what I preach and look to sign up Green Gables Editing with B1G1 right now...
So much confusion around how to structure a sentence referencing multiple people. For example: "Me and John went to the shops."
(I don't know why I chose John. He's my brother. I don't think we've ever been shopping together.)
The key to this area of grammar lies in pronouns, such as I, he, we, you. Those are "subject" pronouns. Then there are "object" pronouns – me, him, us – and "possessive" pronouns – mine, theirs, his.
Where are you going? Come back!
I honestly do feel your pain – during the period when I was at secondary school, the education powers-that-be had decided not to teach students grammar, which has proved quite inconvenient for those of us who have gone on to work with language.
Fortunately, as a teen I read a lot of Victorian literature, which is brutal in its grammatical perfection. It's also the reason my sentences can be interminably long labyrinths. Lol.
I'm basically self-taught when it comes to understanding what is right and wrong, so I know instinctively if a sentence is badly constructed but can't really tell you why. Thank goodness for Ecosia*.
So – me and John went to the shops. This is incorrect because when referring to yourself and somebody else, you put their name first.
"John and me went to the shops." Wait! That's wrong, too!
This is when knowledge of grammatical terms would be useful. Where the pronoun in a sentence is the subject, you use a subject pronoun. In "John and me went to the shops", John and I (see what I did there?) are the subjects. The sentence is about us. So we need to use the subject pronoun "I", not the object pronoun "me".
I found that deleting the other subject from the sentence helps clarify things really quickly. So – delete John. (Not literally.) If you delete John, you have "me went to the shops."
That's clearly wrong.
On the other hand... "Mike bought John and I a drink." (Mike's my husband. He would totally buy the drinks, he's very generous.) We've used the subject "I" there but it doesn't sound right. That's because it isn't – in this sentence, John and I are the objects.
Say, "Mike bought I a drink." Nope. So, extrapolate from that and you have "Mike bought John and me a drink."
I cringe the most when I see/hear people using "myself" when they just mean I or me. "Myself and Katie went to the cinema," for example. It's easier and more acceptable, really, to make these mistakes in speech rather than writing, but I honestly don't think anyone says "myself went to the cinema".
I'm just glad my children are being taught grammar at school now.
*Ecosia is my go-to Google replacement.
This is the bit where I write about wordy and linguistic things that take my fancy...