You (in formal writing)

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The superstition that says you shouldn’t use you in formal writing is sometimes justified and at other times unnecessarily limiting. If there’s no reason why your reader should feel insulted by your use of you, then there’s nothing wrong with using this pronoun instead of the less personal one

For example, these writers have no qualms about using you, and no reasonable person would find these sentences offensive, poorly written, or too informal:

When you hear news stories about water from across the world, they generally emphasise the scale and magnitude of the challenges we face. [Guardian]

If you are burnt out by your job and looking elsewhere, you’ve got plenty of company. [Fortune]

If you didn’t vote for Rob Ford and you’re planning a long summer holiday, you might want to reconsider. [National Post]

One is better where having you apply to your readers might cause offense. Here, if you were used in place of one, it would sound like the writer is insulting us:

And unlike Facebook, which can sometimes resemble an advertisement of one’s mundane existence … [The Atlantic]

But overuse of one can create an overformal tone that is out of place in most writing contexts. For example, the use of one in this sentence is a little too much (and is illogical considering that the writer uses you in the same sentence):

What it says is that if you want to be part of society … then one cannot just keep one’s opinion’s to oneself but one must actively promote the liberal ideology of the state known as “Equality and Diversity”, whether you agree with it or not. [International Business Times]

If you have a teacher or editor who claims you should be avoided except in informal writing, you can open practically any book and show that this superstition is unfounded. For example, these great writers and thinkers use you liberally:

The more or less money you get for any commodity, in the London market, for example, the more or less labour it will at that time and place enable you to purchase or command. [Adam Smith]

Give me insight into to-day, and you may have the antique and future worlds. [Ralph Waldo Emerson]

The really delightful marriage must be that where your husband was a sort of father, and could teach you even Hebrew, if you wished it. [George Eliot]

Some of you, we all know, are poor, find it hard to live, are sometimes, as it were, gasping for breath.  [Henry David Thoreau]

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