RE: You VS One

Subject: RE: You VS One
From: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>
To: "Keith Hansen" <KRH -at- weiland-wfg -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 4 Jun 2008 15:10:36 -0600

Keith Hansen wrote:

> What is the generally accepted position today for "you" vs. "one"?
> For example, assume an election official wants to mail a letter to all
> registered voters. He can choose either of the following sentences for
> his letter:
> * "If you want to vote in the November election, you must register by
> October 15."
> VS.
> * "If one wants to vote in the November election, one must register by
> October 15."

I suspect the latter would confuse at least some portion of the
electorate: "One what?"

> Back long ago (the Victorian era?), "one" was used in such situations
> instead of "you." Today, outside of very formal writing (such as an
> academic paper), does anyone still advocate using "one" instead of
> "you"?
> I think "one" sounds ridiculously pompous. However, at least one
> I know thinks "you" is wrong here (too informal, she says)!

There are still situations where I'd use it -- maybe in writing to
entertain or persuade in order to set a tone or strike a pose. But in
this context, it's pompous, off-putting, and hinders understanding. Tell
your friend/associate that she's about a hundred years behind the times
and being silly. :-)


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Polycom, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom


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