O – “One”: A Pronoun

It’s not just the loneliest number. These days, it’s a fairly lonely pronoun too as it appears to have fallen out of usage for the most part.

Honestly, how often when we are writing, even formally do we use the pronoun “one”?  I personally try to as often as I can, but even when I do it sounds unnatural as though I’m being too pretentious – which is my natural state, so that doesn’t stop me.

But so often, when you read blogs, essays, or even newspaper and magazine articles, the opportunities one has to use this pronoun is replaced with an all encompassing “you”.

While I struggle with the correctness of my own and others grammar – yes, I’m one of those – I do recognize how antiquated one can sound when using this pronoun correctly. On the other hand, in certain cases – especially opinion pieces, editorials, and other very passionate, personal writing – an all encompassing “you” can come off sounding accusatory. For instance, someone may say, “You have to wonder what the mayor was thinking when he voted to raise taxes”, but I may agree with a tax hike if it pays for other services, so no, I don’t have to wonder that.

I tend to cringe when I read or hear people make this replacement, just as I would cringe if someone were to misuse subject verb agreement, because in my mind, I know it is a grammatical error. But these days, so many grammatical errors, new words, and an abundance of acronyms are accepted, that perhaps it is no longer contested. Perhaps teachers of language arts and english are teaching that either usage is correct.

Reader, what do you think? Which is correct? Which should be correct? Which do you use?

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2 Comments

Filed under literacy education, reading, writing

2 responses to “O – “One”: A Pronoun

  1. I started to say that it depends on context, but I changed my mind halfway through this note. When speaking, I often use the phrase, “One would think…” in situations where logic dictates one outcome, but one would have to be an idiot in a coma to expect the other comatose idiots to behave logically. On the other hand, I rarely find myself shouting at my TV, “One should catch the ball, you moron!”

    In writing, I’m more likely to use “elevated” language if I’m trying to make an argument or convey information that I don’t want misinterpreted. Then again, I text in full, properly punctuated sentences, so my word choices are not particularly slangy in any case. But other than the phrase “one would think…”, I can’t really think of another time I regularly use “one” in that context.

    (Disclaimer: “Elevated” language is different from “high” language. “You are soooooo wasted, dude!” is an example of high language. A person engaged in more elevated discourse would say, “One is soooooo wasted, dude!”)

  2. Sorry, but I will have to leave the question to people who are far more qualified than I am.
    Stopping by on the A to Z. 🙂

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