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I used this sentence in a motivational letter, and I am worried if the usage of (was) in this sentence is right or wrong because I discovered the problem very late:

I have been fascinated by the way electrical circuits function, and how companies make devices and machines with sophisticated electronic systems which was a sort of magic for me.

Note: I meant that the whole thing about electricity was a sort of magic for me.

  • <tl;dr>It's fine.</tl> An English speaker will search back from which to find the thing referred to, i.e., what thing is it that's magic for you. This is called the antecedent. The word was is singular, so the antecedent must be singular. Systems, machines, devices, and companies are all plural and so can't be the antecedent. The only thing left is the single situation "how companies make [things]". Which is want you wanted to say. – deadrat Mar 12 '17 at 19:15
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    @deadrat Yes, but a reader shouldn't have to backtrack to decipher what the writer meant. OP is correct in pointing out the problem. The unnecessary inclusion of "which" made the sentence a bit confusing. I would've rewritten it as "I have [always] been fascinated by the way electrical circuits function, and how companies make devices and machines with sophisticated electronic systems has always seemed like magic to me" (or some other variation of that phrasing) – AleksandrH Mar 12 '17 at 21:45
  • @deadrat I thought the OP's last line ("... the whole thing about electricity ...") tried to say that the magic was in the way electric circuits fashion. If so, it does run counter to a natural reading of the quote. – Lawrence Mar 12 '17 at 21:50
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    @deadrat But you already encountered the antecedent before reaching "which". A well-written sentence should not require the reader to backtrack and determine what the antecedent was. – AleksandrH Mar 12 '17 at 23:54
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    Right, but many people have the sufficient short-term memory to recall what they read before without having to backtrack and search for the relevant antecedent once they encounter the pronoun...it's only when a sentence is poorly phrased that you find yourself confused and have to backtrack to figure out what you "missed". – AleksandrH Mar 13 '17 at 0:22

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