Writing for Business

Nov 19 2012   3:09PM GMT

Oneself or one’s self?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore


Which is correct?
Twitter tip: Don’t call yourself by name in your profile bio, use “I” or “me” instead. Speaking about _________ in the third person sounds pretentious and psychologically unstable.
a. one’s self
b. oneself

Answer: b.


One’s self is considered archaic, although it is still sometimes used when the emphasis is on the self as an entity. You might, for example, speak of psychology as a means of gaining a better understanding of one’s self. However, even in that case, you wouldn’t be wrong to use oneself instead.

People expect that you are the author of your own Twitter account and also the author of the bio, so introduce yourself the same way you’d do it in person.

Referring to yourself in third person — as if you were not yourself, and not another person speaking to you, but someone talking about some third party — is called illeism. Ille is Latin for he, the third-person pronoun for males.

Wikipedia has an interesting article about illeism. Here’s a snippet:

… illeism can be used to reinforce self-promotion, as used to sometimes comic effect by Bob Dole throughout his political career.[2] This was particularly made notable during the United States presidential election, 1996 and lampooned broadly in popular media for years afterwards.

Similarly illeism is used with an air of grandeur, to give the speaker lofty airs. Idiosyncratic and conceited people are known to either use or are lampooned as using illeism to puff themselves up or illustrate their egoism. The artist Salvador Dalí used illeism throughout his interview with 60 MinutesMike Wallace, punctuating it with “Dalí is immortal and will not die,” although this may have been a reference to the legacy of his art rather than his actual self. The wrestler The Rock was notorious for this, mainly to enhance his persona to a superhuman level.


See also: What’s wrong with this Twitter profile? (It’s a different and even more horrible problem.)

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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