The One Word Writers Should Never Use Again

Carol Tice

Shhh...don't say this word.Have you ever wondered if what you’re saying is a turnoff to your freelance writing prospects?

There’s a word I hear freelance writers use pretty frequently that I think is one of those little “tells” that your pitch might be off.

It also indicates you may not be serious about succeeding as a freelance writer. Maybe, you’re just kidding yourself about wanting to do this.

Decided I’d better stop and talk about it. I want you to know about this word, so you can think about why you might be using it, and how you’re presenting yourself to clients and to writing colleagues and mentors.

It’s a word that comes off sort of snobby.

It might be making prospects wonder who the heck you think you are. Or leave them confused about what you’re up to.

It makes me wonder if your head is really in this freelance writing game.

What is this toxic word?

It pops up in a question I get a lot:

“How can one find clients as a freelance writer?”

My prediction: You will start to find freelance clients when you stop saying ‘one’ when you mean ‘I’ or ‘me.’

You’re not asking on behalf of someone else. You’re asking for you. Aren’t you?

But apparently that’s too scary or maybe too direct for you. So we get this strange, indirect way of referring to yourself. “How does one…”

Like it’s some kind of armchair-sitting theoretical conversation, instead of a life-and-death, bankrupt or solvent type question that involves your life and your checkbook.

3 Reasons it’s a big problem

Why does this little three-letter word deserve a whole blog post? Because I think ‘one’ is a red flag.

It’s a warning sign of a mindset that is going to make you fail as a freelancer. Why? Three reasons:

  1. Your tone is snooty. You’re referring to yourself in the third person like you’re the Queen of England or something. That’s pretentious. Or odd. Or both. If this attitude seeps into your marketing, you may be talking down to clients and annoying them.
  2. You’re not all in. I think it’s not an accident that some writers pose questions this way. It’s because you’re not quite committed to doing this thing yet. You’re one toe in the water. Better to jump in and start swimming. So own your reality — you’re trying to freelance.
  3. You’re not present. People who say ‘one’ about themselves are often also people who are writing about themselves in the third person on their writer website. They pretend they’re an agency when it’s really just one person, writing, “We always complete your assignments on time.” That just creates confusion and potentially disappointed customers when they discover you don’t really have a team behind the curtain.

Talk about yourself in the first person — on your writer website, in person, when you ask questions on email or at a Webinar.

Say “I’m a freelance writer.” Ideally, find opportunities to say it over and over, every week.

It’s your writing career, not some”one” else’s.

The sooner you start saying that to everyone in your life, the faster you are going to make freelance writing happen for you.

How do you describe yourself to freelance clients? Leave a comment and give us your approach.


  1. Jessica Brecker

    I guess if you are pitching yourself and it’s a personal letter that is different, it should be in your own language. However,I think it’s interesting so many people agree with the writer, but whenever you start using “I,” “me,” and “we” you are, as a journalist, editorializing. And that makes you look like you didn’t take journalism. 101. I just hope people don’t think that in the context of an article that it’s OK to editorialize. Many people are relating this to using excessive language and obscure vocabulary to show off. You are using literally one word. As for the psychology behind it, using “I” and “me” could indicate a person is self-centered. It’s about everyone, not just about me. Why is it snobby to sound literate?

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