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What She Would Have Said

Last week a client wrote asking for help with this problem sentence:

"By assisting the credit union industry, we directly help our broader, credit union community and indirectly assist people to access money and get back on their feet."

She was wondering about the word to in the phrase "to access."

Whenever I struggle with a sentence–whether because of a problem word or a simple feeling of awkwardness–I start over by paring it down to its essentials.

In my client’s sentence, the essential meaning seemed to be this:

"When we assist other credit unions, we indirectly help people access money and get back on their feet."

In fact, if she had been talking to me rather than writing, I bet that is what she would have said.

And I would have understood instantly and agreed.

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.