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I am writing a sentence:

  1. Ms. K should be the person who knows best that there has not been such a letter.

This sentence sounds a bit wordy to me. I also feel iffy about the structure and have come up with some variations:

  1. Ms. K is the person who should know best that there has not been such a letter.

Do these sentences both work equally fine? Any nuances?

What about these?

  1. Ms. K should be the best person to know that there has not been such a letter.

  2. Ms. K herself should know best that there has not been such a letter.

Are these all grammatical? Which one works best? Any better ways to say what I am trying to say?

2 Answers 2

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Your #2 sounds more natural to me:

Ms. K is the person who should know best that there has not been such a letter.

Your #1 sounds as if you are saying

Ms. K is the only person who ought to know.

which, from context, doesn't seem like your intention. I think "would" is preferable to "should" in this case, because you're saying that she potentially has the information, not that she ought to have the information.

Your #3 is less redundant than #1, but still not a marked improvement. Your #4 merely brings about more ambiguity as to whether others might have the information as to whether there had been a letter and introduces the "herself," which in and of itself is somewhat redundant in English.

That being said, this is a lot of information to pack into a single sentence. Parsing it would be somewhat difficult, even for a native speaker.

The best thing might be to break it up into two separate sentences:

There [likely] has not been such a letter. Mrs. K would know whether there had been one.

This establishes that there may or may not have been a letter, but, if there had been one, Mrs. K would know about it. It leaves the door open to say, "Mrs. M might/would know, as well."

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There are many ways to say this, some more wordy than others. A complete discussion of all the possibilities would be a very long answer.

I would keep it simple, and change the negative to the positive, as it's unnecessarily confusing:

Ms. K would best know if/whether there has been such a letter.

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