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With this sentence

What better way to celebrate the peace than with a fight?

Is "what better way to" an informal phrase? Would it be better to write

What is better than fighting as a way to celebrate the peace?

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3  
No, the original sentence is notably superior. –  tchrist Jan 29 '13 at 2:06
    
I think suggesting, whether seriously or ironically, that fighting is a good way to celebrate peace would be where a sense of informality is coming in here. –  Jon Hanna Jan 29 '13 at 2:07
    
Can it be put in formal writing? –  user36521 Jan 29 '13 at 2:12
    
@JonHanna It isn’t clear whether the OP is concerned with syntax or sentiment here. Their rewrite leads me to suspect they worry that the original sentence “has no verb”, and so would incur the unjust ire of shortsighted copyeditors and Microsoft Word alike. –  tchrist Jan 29 '13 at 2:12
    
I'm worried that it would seem to informal for an essay. –  user36521 Jan 29 '13 at 2:13

4 Answers 4

In studying the phrase "What better way", I have found that it is a commonly used phrase since edwardian times in English jargon and is considered proper when followed by a validation. "What better way, than to jump in head first".

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What better way to celebrate the peace than with a fight?

This phrasing highlights the irony in the statement (a fight celebrates peace) by juxtaposing the words in close proximity.

"What better way" is an English idiom which is rhetorical. The question doesn't literally ask for a better way, it posits that there is no better way. I don't feel the idiom is particularly informal, I don't think you should worry about using it in formal writing.

What is better than fighting as a way to celebrate the peace?

This phrasing sounds needlessly clunky, and comes across sounding like you are seriously asking for a better means of celebrating the peace, since fighting is clearly not sufficient.

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The sentence (question) you provided is a part of some conversation or writing, and seems like it should be understood in some context.

To me, it seems something (at least) deviating from the actual discussion. Such things/feelings/opinions should normally be short so as to not disturb the pace and intensity of the discussion that was already taking place in conversation/writing.

The second sentence or question seems better grammatically, but like Jon Hanna I think it is too formal.

I think there are two ways you can put it in writing:

  • Simply quoting it.
  • By narrating it, maybe in some different words. Like, he jokingly/sarcastically remarked about war being a way to celebrate peace, or, he asked sarcastically if there was some better way to celebrate peace than war.
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What better way ... is elliptic not for What would be a better way ..., but for What better way could there be ....

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