Hi,

Could you please check if this sentence is okay?

"It’s almost a universal experience that once a person leaves his childhood home and stays away for years, the next time he returns, home will seem smaller, even—less enchanting, than his memories portray."

My thoughts:

1. Should I say "that once a person has left his childhood home and stayed away for years"?

2. Is it okay to use the em dash after "even"? I want to indicate a pause, but "even—less" might look like a phrase at first glance.

3. How acceptable (or unacceptable) is it to use just male pronouns in a statement like this? I would have wanted "he or she" but it's so awkward here. The plural also sounds awkward, but maybe it sounds fine to other readers?

4. Okay to omit "to it" after "he returns" and "it" after "portray"?

5. Would you agree with the statement?

Thanks also for pointing out other problems!

Sarcandra



It’s an almost universal experience that if a person leaves his childhood home and stays away for years, then when he returns, it will seem smaller and less enchanting than his memories portray.

1. OK

2. Is it okay to use the em dash after "even"?-- No, nor 'even'. Neither is called for here.

3. It does not bother me, but I am male. I agree that 'he' is the best choice.

4. Okay to omit "to it" after "he returns" and "it" after "portray"?- Yes, much better.

5. Would you agree with the statement?-- Yes
Thanks, Mr. Micawber.
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Mister MicawberIt’s an almost universal experience that...
I do think now the sentence makes more sense when "almost" immediately precedes "universal," but is there a rule for when to place the adverb and adjective together and when to separate them?

  • It's undoubtedly a universal experience that... = Should I move "undoubtedly" before "universal" (changing the article, of course)?
  • It's quite a strange thing to have happened. = This is fine, right?
Thanks.

Sarcandra
I do think now the sentence makes more sense when "almost" immediately precedes "universal," but is there a rule for when to place the adverb and adjective together and when to separate them?-- It's a matter of meaning:

It's almost a universal experience = It's not a universal experience.

It's an almost universal experience = It's nearly universal.

Compare:

I almost passed all of my exams = I failed all of my exams by a narrow margin.

I passed almost all of my exams = I passed 90%+ of my exams (failed only 1 or 2, for instance).

  • It's undoubtedly a universal experience that... = Should I move "undoubtedly" before "universal" (changing the article, of course)?-- No. Here 'undoubtedly' does not refer to 'universal experience'; it is the writer's comment adverb.
  • It's quite a strange thing to have happened. = This is fine, right?-- Right.
Got it, thanks.
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