Is ‘Ones’ a Valid Word?

www.RuthlessEditor.comIf one is defined as being or amounting to a single unit, how can the plural form ones be a valid word?

We recognize one when appropriately used as a personal pronoun referring to an individual or people in general:

One never knows how much good comes from a kind deed.

One should not drink and drive.

One also has a possessive form:

One’s home is one’s castle.

One’s health is more important than one’s wealth.

Yet enwiktionary.org defines ones as the plural of one.

Huh?

I’ve noticed ones in a number of online news reports, and I’m puzzled — and discouraged — by its use. Here are examples and my suggestions for rewrites:

👎Those senators are probably right. But the alternatives carry some serious political risks, ones that the party’s officials and strategists may not fully appreciate.

👍Those senators are probably right. But the alternatives carry some serious political risks that the party’s officials and strategists may not fully appreciate.

 

👎The mayor seems to think that voters won’t hold her responsible for problems in the new markets, whether it’s the ones she inherited because of the legislation’s shortcomings or the ones she has created.

👍The mayor seems to think that voters won’t hold her responsible for problems in the new markets, whether it’s those she inherited because of the legislation’s shortcomings or those she has created.

 

👎The plant’s transitional workers are the ones who start out as temps technically employed by outside firms.

👍The plant’s transitional workers are those who start out as temps technically employed by outside firms.

 

👎The legislator’s comments were similar ones he’d made the day before,

👍The legislator’s comments were similar to some he’d made the day before.

 

👎There are the unremarkable and predictable ones written by someone else and the ones in which he ignores the script.

👍There are the unremarkable and predictable words written by someone else and those spoken that ignore the script.

 

👎The aide’s biggest accomplishments are ones that people outside the West Wing cannot see.

👍The aide’s biggest accomplishments are those that people outside the West Wing cannot see.

Again, the definition of one is clear: It denotes a single thing. Using ones in the contexts shown here to imply more than one is clumsy, grammatically flawed and unnecessary.

Have you seen questionable use of common words? Let me know!

And share this with the grammar lovers among your friends, family and colleagues.

Kathy Watson
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Kathy Watson

Kathy has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

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2 thoughts on “Is ‘Ones’ a Valid Word?

  1. william

    How do you react to improper usage in the service of just sounding right? I am admittedly the world’s worst fisherman; and over the years I have had many opportunities to tell tall tales about “the ones that got away.” Nobody ever misses the reference to the story more successful anglers tell, “the one that got away.”

    Somehow, “the fish that got away,” or “the fishes [I have failed to bring in numerous species] that got away,” or “those that got away,” don’t seem to work as well.

    Reply
    1. Kathy WatsonKathy Watson Post author

      William, I agree that there are times when one could get by with “ones.” Someone could ask, “Which trousers did you wear yesterday? The ones with the suspenders attached?”

      My unhappiness was more with news reports and writing that I believe should have a more formal tone. You know the ones. 😉

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