Date: Sun, 9 Nov 1997 19:56:52 -0500
From: Alan Baragona baragonasa[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]VAX.VMI.EDU
Subject: Re: one as a pronoun?
(Dale F. Coye) wrote:
After reading 72 freshmen papers I find myself facing: "One finds many points
in common..." in nearly every one. I hate this construction. I especially
hate it when it's reflexive: "when one asks oneself what one's position
is..." Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage tells us it is 'usually
the mark of a formal style,' but I find myself wanting to tell my students
not to use it ever, because it sounds stiff and unnatural. In other words, my
Sprachgefuehl tells me people don't use it in informal speech, and formal
speech that deviates too much from informal speech doesn't set well. My
question is- what's the current feeling on this construction, in writing and
in speech? I know some people use it in conversational styles, but is it
only PhDs? It sounds foreign to me. German, 'man,' French 'on,' but not
The College of New Jersey
Like you, I don't like it and don't use it. It would be one good way
for students to avoid either sexist pronoun usage or the clumsy "he or
she" except that they always end up shifting from indeterminate
pseudo-pronoun "one" to the masculine anyway ("When one reads J.D.
Salinger, he is overcome by sadness."), and it makes them sound as if
they're trying to be British.