PSU Insight

Speak with Power and Passion

How Should One Refer to Oneself?

Some people think that using the word "one" (as in "one would think...") makes them sound cultured. It doesn't.

To be an effective speaker, you should usually try to be somewhat conversational. And when was the last time you heard "the best thing one can do is...." in casual conversation? So in general, try to avoid using the word “one” as a substitute for “you”.

Even if you're speaking in an oratorical style, using "one" instead of "you" tends to sound stuffy and phony, and "it distances one from one’s audience." (See what I mean?) Use "you" or "someone" or "a person" instead.

An exception could be when you're referring to some other individual, and the other person could be either male or female. Saying "When one does that...." might be preferable to saying "When he or she does that....", which sounds awkward. However, it's quite possible that using the pronoun 'they' (which refers to both genders) will work just as well, as in "When they do that...."

But whenever you're referring to yourself, it's almost always preferable to not refer to oneself as 'one', but rather as 'you'.