In medical transcription we are required to type all numbers as digits (unless beginning a sentence). Some phrases include the word "one," such as, "I will get around to it 1 of these days," "...on multiple occasions. The most recent 1...," "At 1 point..."

Is "one" in these examples a true quantity?

It just feels like it should be spelled out, but in discussing this with others, I could not come up with any rules to back up my instinct. In the common phrase, such as "one of these days," the whole phrase can be replaced with something else, like, "eventually." In the second example, the word behaves like a pronoun, where "one" replaces "occasion." "At one point," could be changed without changing the meaning to "at some point." Is my point valid?

Medical transcriptionists by nature tend to be picky about wording, so I imagine there are others that would be interested in this answer.

  • 2
    Hello and welcome to EL&U. This is a good question. There are phrases where it's definitely not a pronoun and not a quantity - e.g. "at one with ...". However, in your examples, it is a quantity of sorts, just not the sort that translates particularly well to digits. I agree with your instinct on this, though I don't have enough to explain why.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 18:09
  • 4
    Pure drivel. The fault belongs to whoever in your organisation said “…type all numbers as digits (unless beginning a sentence)”. Who believes “… beginning a sentence” makes a difference, speak up now. “Medical transcription” generally follows no such rule, as you will find if you ask colleagues in other institutions. General English suggests numbers up to 9 or 10; sometimes 11 be spelt out, then all higher numbers should use only digits… even there, notice the difference among 9, 10 and 11. “Medical transcription” has no reason to follow anything other than general use in English. Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 17:10
  • 2
    '1 of these days' looks non-standard, textspeak. I'd go with regarding 'one of these days' as an idiom, a single lexeme as you suggest. And idioms resist variation in form (though it's far from unknown). The idiom contains the orthographic word one not the numeral. The guidelines should probably restrict the mandatory use of numerals to when the numeral usage is obvious (counting or measures); imagine if one had to write 'The patient is a resident of 7 Sisters, London'. Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 16:57
  • 2
    Merriam-Webster says "one" is an adjective meaning "being an unknown, undetermined, or unspecified unit or thing" in constructions such as "one day", and "one of these days" is I imagine the same.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Aug 5, 2021 at 14:05
  • 1
    I believe 1 argue that the transcriptionist's rules are a bit silly. You'll find attorneys have habits when writing numbers in contracts, but you wouldn't find one (1) who enforces a single rule in all situations.
    – jimm101
    Commented Dec 24, 2021 at 19:12

3 Answers 3


In the cases you've given it's more of an idiom than a true quantity, and one that can probably be replaced in most cases with different phrasing that doesn't run into this issue. But if there is a guideline that says "a number is a number and this is how we write it" you don't really have an argument to use one in place of 1 at any stage because the rule says there's no difference.


One is also a noun: "You have omitted a one in that number. It should be 49217, not 4927"

"She is the one I love."

"He's a right one, he is!"

"I am at one with John's answer."


"One" can be an ordinal number. Bachelor number one, bachelor number two, bachelor number three. Of course, one could just as well say bachelor A, bachelor B, bachelor C, so "one" (or even "number one") isn't serving as a quantity, but rather as an ordinal number:

a number designating the place (such as first, second, or third) occupied by an item in an ordered sequence

  • 4
    it's not an ordinal number just because it plays a rôle in an ordering expression
    – Toothrot
    Commented Aug 15, 2019 at 13:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.