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Thread: Some magic...

  1. #1
    nyggus is offline Key Member
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    Question Some magic...

    "Is it not what magicians do, to show something that is impossible to imagine for their audience?"

    On the one hand, I like this sentence; on the other hand, I am afraid there might be something wrong with it. Which is the case?

    Nyggus

  2. #2
    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Some magic...

    Quote Originally Posted by nyggus View Post
    "Isn't it what magicians do, show something that is impossible for their audience to imagine?"

    On the one hand, I like this sentence; on the other hand, I am afraid there might be something wrong with it. Which is the case?

    Nyggus

    my opinion...

  3. #3
    nyggus is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Some magic...

    Quote Originally Posted by bianca View Post
    my opinion...
    "Isn't" versus "is not" depends on whether it is a more formal or informal language: here it is to be the former, so I would go for "is not". The problem with your version that I see is the show-construction you used: I'd rather say "To show sth is what magicians do", but not "Show sth is what magicians do", so your version seems to be incorrect in this regard. As for this audience-thing, I think it's a matter of style, and probably both versions are correct though maybe one is more elegant than another (probably yours).

    So: are these sentences ok and/or is any one of them better?
    1. "Is it not what magicians do, to show something that is impossible to imagine for their audience?"
    2. "Is it not what magicians do, to show something that is impossible for their audience to imagine?"

    Cheers,
    Nyggus

  4. #4
    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Some magic...

    I still stand by my opinion. Besides, 'isn't' sounds better than 'is it not' in your sentence, even in formal writing. Your particular sentence doesn't sound like it should belong to an overly formal piece of writing, which outrules contractions. It is not wrong to use contractions in formal writing, but you should use them sparingly, since they tend to make your writing appear less than fully formal. But I advise you not to use the more colloquial contractions like she'd've in your formal writing: IMO it is these kind of contractions that, while perfectly normal in speech, are a little too informal for careful writing.
    Last edited by bianca; 28-Jun-2007 at 21:27.

  5. #5
    nyggus is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Some magic...

    Quote Originally Posted by bianca View Post
    I still stand by my opinion. Besides, 'isn't' sounds better than 'is it not' in your sentence, even in formal writing. Your particular sentence doesn't sound like it should belong to an overly formal piece of writing, which outrules contractions. It is not wrong to use contractions in formal writing, but you should use them sparingly, since they tend to make your writing appear less than fully formal. But I advise you not to use the more colloquial contractions like she'd've in your formal writing: IMO it is these kind of contractions that, while perfectly normal in speech, are a little too informal for careful writing.
    Well, and still stand by my opinion. Contractions, including "isn't", irrespective of what you and me and many others may wish, are not used in many formal styles of writing - even when in the texts such sentences as mine are incorporated. And I am not a person to decide here - I am just an author who has to follow the rule of formal writing that is: don't use contractions. But of course this is a matter of taste and style, and when one is going to have the piece published or evaluated, one's opinion is quite often not that important.

    And I can show you books with no single contraction and journals with no single contraction.

    Nyggus
    Last edited by nyggus; 28-Jun-2007 at 21:45.

  6. #6
    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Some magic...

    you are right - I gave you my opinion. You may check others, as well.

  7. #7
    nyggus is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Some magic...

    Quote Originally Posted by bianca View Post
    you are right - I gave you my opinion. You may check others, as well.
    Yes, and I gave mine. Had we all had the same opinion, the world would have been boring, wouldn't it? But we don't, which makes the world interesting: it's a kind of magic...

    Nyggus

  8. #8
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Some magic...

    A third opinion...

    1. Is it not what magicians do, to show something that is impossible to imagine for their audience?

    There seems to be a possible ambiguity here: "to show" could be read as "in order to show", i.e.

    1a. Is X not what magicians do, in order to show Y?

    whereas in your intended structure, the "it" anticipates "to show something..."

    So I think I would agree that this form is more usual:

    2. Is it not what magicians do show something that is impossible to imagine for their audience?

    Or you could replace the dash with a colon.

    It seems to me that the uncontracted form suggests a slightly combative tone, whereas the contracted version has more of an air of "seeking assent". So much depends on the tone you require.

    You could also change the pronoun:

    3. Isn't that what magicians do show something that is impossible to imagine for their audience?

    All the best,

    MrP

  9. #9
    mykwyner is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Some magic...

    I agree with Bianca; the construction "...impossible to imagine for their audience" is awkward and non-idiomatic.

    We don't say that a book is easy to understand for its readers, or that a car is comfortable to ride in for its passengers.

    These phrases are not ungrammatical, but they are definitely not usages that native English speakers in the U.S. would create naturally.

    We say that a magician's illusions are impossible for his audience to imagine, a book's readers will find it easy to understand, and car's passengers will discover that it is comfortable to ride in.

  10. #10
    nyggus is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Some magic...

    Dear all,

    thanks a lot for all your replies!

    Nyggus

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