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Is it formal to use "what," "who," "how" in a non-question sentence? Are there any alternatives?

Example:

We are dealing with a case of a negative externality of consumption, which results in the oversupply and overconsumption of diesel than what is socially optimal.

Is there a natural way of rephrasing the sentence so as to omit the word "what?"

Or is including the word "what" perfectly acceptable and formal?

Another example:

The invention of the assembly line is a revolution in how we manufacture goods.

Perhaps reorganize the sentence by replacing "how" with "method"?

  • And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. — John F. Kennedy, inauguration address, January 1961. – Chaim Feb 9 '18 at 17:54
  • For behold, this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! I Corinthians 7:11, KJV. – Chaim Feb 9 '18 at 17:59
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Answer to your general question:

It is not informal to use "wh-words" like what, who, how, which, where in non-question sentences. These words have a number of other uses that are valid at all levels of formality. (For example, who is used as a relative pronoun in a phrase like "the person who helped me".) But you need to learn how to use them correctly.

Answers to your questions about specific sentences:

It is not grammatical to say "the oversupply and overconsumption of diesel than what is socially optimal". One problem is that the presence of the nouns "oversupply" and "overconsumption" does not warrant the use of the word "than". The word "than" is used with a preceding adjective, as in the expressions "higher than" or "greater than". An alternative wording of the sentence could be

We are dealing with a case of a negative externality of consumption, which results in oversupply and greater consumption of diesel than is socially optimal.

The other sentence is grammatical as it is, but I would agree with Jesper's suggestion to change "revolution in how" to "revolution in the way". The Google Ngram Viewer indicates that the second wording is more common:

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Here are my suggestions:

We are dealing with a case of a negative externality of consumption, which results in the oversupply and overconsumption of diesel on a level that is not socially optimal.

and

The invention of the assembly line is a revolution in the way we manufacture goods.

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