Conversational but Professional: Hitting the Right Note

[ Instructors: Download PDFs of this exercise at the bottom of the post.]

Capturing the right tone in business communication requires careful consideration of audience, an organization’s corporate climate, and writing purpose. Whether composing a text message or an e-mail, good writers project professionalism by choosing words that will make them sound educated, mature, and conversational.

To hit the right note between being too relaxed or too formal, keep these points in mind:

  • Adopt a casual tone that sounds conversational instead of the high-level diction found in formal reports or letters.
  • Avoid overblown words such as awesome or incredible.
  • Be concise and polite.
  • Compose using correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Don’t use abbreviations that are appropriate only for non-work messages (BTW instead of by the way or gr8 for great).
  • Use personal pronouns such as I, we, and you to sound friendlier.

Practice hitting the right tone by rewriting the sentences below. If the tone of a sentence is appropriate, mark it as correct with a C.

  1. All managers are hereby instructed to administer the pro forma documents to the approrpriate parties for the ensuing quarters.
  2. Bossman Steve, totally awesome news!! Gretchel has FINALLY tossed her heinous idea so we can go with the cool one Benny came up with.
  3. Please return the signed documents so we can process your check quickly.
  4. The advent of unforeseen events adding to the difficulty of completion of the tasks does not abrogate your presence at meetings nor the original due date.
  5. Hey, dude, you promised me those docs like three days ago? WTH?
  6. As a new employee, you can contribute to our volunteer efforts in many different ways.
  7. Per the dictates contained in the previously mentioned contract containing your signature, your inability to fulfill the parameters of the assignment are reasonable cause for immediate dismissal.
  8. R U coming 2 the mtg at 3 cuz if not el jefe will be mucho mad.
  9. Pursuant to our orla communication which took place on the afternoon of the 12th of November, you are hereby notified that your application for vacation has been met with approval.
  10. It is desirous that all employees adhere to the signs posted in various and sundry locations throughout our establishment and properly cleanse their hands.


  1. Original too formal, wordy, contains a typo. REWRITE: All managers should give the prepared documents to involved staff members quarterly.
  2. Original too informal, uses impolite language, wordy. REWRITE: Steve, Gretchel has agreed to go with Benny’s idea.
  3. C
  4. Original too formal, wordy.REWRITE: Despite the sudden events, you must attend meetings and finish the job on time.
  5. Original too informal, uses inappropriate abbreviation. REWRITE: Mike, do you have the documents you promised me a few days ago?
  6. C
  7. Original oo formal, wordy. REWRITE: Because you have not completed the assignment, we are dismissing you, according to the terms of the contract.
  8. Original too informal, grammatically incorrect, use of abbreviations. REWRITE: Are you coming to the meeting at 3:00? I think the boss is expecting you.
  9. Original too formal, wordy, typo. REWRITE: Your vacation is approved. Have fun!
  10. Original too formal, wordy. REWRITE: All employees must wash their hands.

Conversational but Professional

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