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Continued: Wilbers: Avoid overly formal language to make yourself approachable

  • Article by: STEPHEN WILBERS , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Last update: October 20, 2013 - 2:00 PM

Here’s how you might have revised those sentences:

1. I’m trying to improve my writing.

2. Please tell me what happened [or transpired] at the meeting.

3. We need to build a dike around this building with these sandbags.

4. These conditions impede our progress in solving this problem or These conditions are preventing us from solving this problem.

5. Our team leader insists that we conduct ourselves ethically.

Now for the grand prize. Here’s an exercise I use in my writing seminars. How might you replace the fancy language with natural language in the following sentence?

“In the unlikely eventuality that you encounter various and sundry difficulties with the above-referenced project, please apprise me of the situation at your earliest possible convenience.”

How about “Please let me know if you have any problems”?

Natural word choice goes beyond tone and level of formality. Natural word choice makes you seem approachable.

Stephen Wilbers offers training seminars in effective business writing. E-mail him at His website is

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