Comma/No Comma - Frequency Adverbs at the Beginning of a Sentence

Some grammar rules (and embarrassing mistakes!) transcend the uniqueness of different regions and style guides. This new International Grammar section by OnlineBookClub.org ultimately identifies those rules thus providing a simple, flexible rule-set, respecting the differences between regions and style guides. You can feel free to ask general questions about spelling and grammar. You can also provide example sentences for other members to proofread and inform you of any grammar mistakes.
Post Reply
User avatar
bookowlie
Special Discussion Leader
Posts: 8023
Joined: 25 Oct 2014, 09:52
2017 Reading Goal: 52
2017 Reading Goal Completion: 50
Favorite Book: The Lost Continent
Currently Reading:
Bookshelf Size: 330
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-bookowlie.html
Latest Review: Something’s Eating The Garden by Pam Fries

Comma/No Comma - Frequency Adverbs at the Beginning of a Sentence

Post by bookowlie » 10 Feb 2019, 10:20

I would like to get some feedback about whether a comma is required for a frequency adverb at the beginning of a sentence. I was able to find some information on a grammar forum that quoted the Chicago Manual of Style. According to the Chicago Manual of Style, the comma can be omitted.


Do frequency adverbs that go at the beginning of sentence need a comma?

Which of these alternatives, if any, is better?

Occasionally, I play football with my friends.
Occasionally I play football with my friends.
punctuation
shareimprove this question
edited Jan 16 '15 at 11:52


As neither variant is confusing, I'd use either, depending on whether I thought a pause sounded natural / desirable.

I often go swimming, and I love fishing, clay-pigeon shooting, and bird-spotting. I often go dancing. Occasionally, I play football with my friends.

but

I do get a reasonable amount of exercise. Occasionally I play football with my friends, but my real love is swimming.

If you want an authority to sanction this,

Chicago Manual of Style 5.69:

"When [transitional adverbs] are used in such a way that there is no real break in continuity and no call for any pause in reading, commas should be omitted.

Transitional adverbs are traditionally even more attached to their following commas than adverbs of frequency.

Note that some frequency adverbs require inversion if fronted:

Seldom / Rarely / Never does the king now venture beyond his palace walls.
"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship" - Louisa May Alcott

User avatar
Espie
Member of the Month
Posts: 2300
Joined: 05 May 2018, 06:36
2019 Reading Goal: 12
2019 Reading Goal Completion: 25
2018 Reading Goal: 12
2018 Reading Goal Completion: 116
Currently Reading: Bluewater Walkabout
Bookshelf Size: 102
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-espie.html
Latest Review: Pastoring is not what you think by Elijah Oladimeji

Post by Espie » 11 Feb 2019, 08:35

bookowlie wrote: ↑
10 Feb 2019, 10:20
I would like to get some feedback about whether a comma is required for a frequency adverb at the beginning of a sentence. I was able to find some information on a grammar forum that quoted the Chicago Manual of Style. According to the Chicago Manual of Style, the comma can be omitted.


Do frequency adverbs that go at the beginning of sentence need a comma?

Which of these alternatives, if any, is better?

Occasionally, I play football with my friends.
Occasionally I play football with my friends.
punctuation
shareimprove this question
edited Jan 16 '15 at 11:52


As neither variant is confusing, I'd use either, depending on whether I thought a pause sounded natural / desirable.

I often go swimming, and I love fishing, clay-pigeon shooting, and bird-spotting. I often go dancing. Occasionally, I play football with my friends.

but

I do get a reasonable amount of exercise. Occasionally I play football with my friends, but my real love is swimming.

If you want an authority to sanction this,

Chicago Manual of Style 5.69:


"When [transitional adverbs] are used in such a way that there is no real break in continuity and no call for any pause in reading, commas should be omitted.

Transitional adverbs are traditionally even more attached to their following commas than adverbs of frequency.

Note that some frequency adverbs require inversion if fronted:

Seldom / Rarely / Never does the king now venture beyond his palace walls.
1. Question: Is "Occasionally" a transitional word?

Answer: Yes.

References:
a. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transitions_(linguistics) (It shows a "temporal" transition of "frequency".)
b. https://www.smart-words.org/linking-wor ... words.html. (It has the "function of limiting, restricting, and defining time.")

2. Question: Is a comma required after a transitional word beginning a sentence?

Answer: I'm inclined to say yes but with reservations.

Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) 5.39 requires the comma(s) to set off a transitional adverb from the rest of the sentence per screen snapshot below. None of the examples where non-use had been allowed included transitional adverbs at the start of the sentence so far.

Thus, CMOS still runs in consonance with all the other references I've found stating that commas are required after transitional elements. If there are credible references which would say that it is not required, I'd be interested to know, too.

References:
a. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writ ... ommas.html (This advises the "(u)se (of) commas after introductory a) clauses, b) phrases, or c) words that come before the main clause.")
b. http://www.englishessaywritingtips.com/ ... nctuation/
c. https://www.nova.edu/tutoring-testing/s ... commas.pdf
d. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/style ... er/commas/
e. https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/part ... dverb.html (This states that "there's usually a comma after the conjunctive adverb" but doesn't specify when, why or how it doesn't happen.)
f. https://archive.org/stream/in.ernet.dli ... n_djvu.txt (This is the archived CMOS 13th Edition with screen snapshot below.)

CMOS transition adverbs.JPG
CMOS transition adverbs.JPG (64.78 KiB) Viewed 57 times
"Life has many different chapters for us. One bad chapter doesn't mean it's the end of the book."-Unknown
"To err is human; to forgive, divine."-Alexander Pope
"Put GOD first; He'll bless your efforts with success."-Proverbs

User avatar
kandscreeley
Special Discussion Leader
Posts: 7059
Joined: 31 Dec 2016, 20:31
2019 Reading Goal: 95
2019 Reading Goal Completion: 18
2018 Reading Goal: 115
2018 Reading Goal Completion: 94
2017 Reading Goal: 100
2017 Reading Goal Completion: 94
Currently Reading:
Bookshelf Size: 253
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-kandscreeley.html
Latest Review: Raven Dock by Sara Caldwell

Post by kandscreeley » 11 Feb 2019, 09:59

In the instances you site at the beginning, I'd say either is acceptable. Much like you, I think it is dependent on the readability of the sentence. I've always heard that commas after opening clauses are only required if the opening clause is long (which is once again where we come to a crossroads because how long is long).
“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”
― Ernest Hemingway

User avatar
bookowlie
Special Discussion Leader
Posts: 8023
Joined: 25 Oct 2014, 09:52
2017 Reading Goal: 52
2017 Reading Goal Completion: 50
Favorite Book: The Lost Continent
Currently Reading:
Bookshelf Size: 330
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-bookowlie.html
Latest Review: Something’s Eating The Garden by Pam Fries

Post by bookowlie » 11 Feb 2019, 11:15

Espie,
My request for feedback, and the info I attached, was regarding frequency adverbs at the beginning of a sentence, such as "Sometimes," "Occasionally."
"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship" - Louisa May Alcott

User avatar
Espie
Member of the Month
Posts: 2300
Joined: 05 May 2018, 06:36
2019 Reading Goal: 12
2019 Reading Goal Completion: 25
2018 Reading Goal: 12
2018 Reading Goal Completion: 116
Currently Reading: Bluewater Walkabout
Bookshelf Size: 102
Reviewer Page: onlinebookclub.org/reviews/by-espie.html
Latest Review: Pastoring is not what you think by Elijah Oladimeji

Post by Espie » 11 Feb 2019, 19:22

bookowlie wrote: ↑
11 Feb 2019, 11:15
Espie,
My request for feedback, and the info I attached, was regarding frequency adverbs at the beginning of a sentence, such as "Sometimes," "Occasionally."
That was what I was responding to, Bookowlie; thank you for your confirmation. I believe you've quoted information from the following post on another site: https://english.stackexchange.com/quest ... ma-occasio.

In your sample sentence (i.e. "Occasionally, I play football with my friends."), the frequency adverb "Occasionally" is used as a transition word that requires a comma based on the sources I've found so far and cited in my earlier response to your post. Even CMOS says so; none of the CMOS examples shows that comma omission after transitional adverbs at the beginning of sentences are fine; and, the CMOS examples only included those in other parts of the sentence.

The sentence "Occasionally I play football with my friends, but I'm not a physically active person." that you quoted is not a CMOS example; it was merely a response from the non-CMOS site's contributor.

Nonetheless, like you, I'm also interested to know if there are further references for the comma non-usage relevant to your query that support the above non-CMOS site's example(s).
"Life has many different chapters for us. One bad chapter doesn't mean it's the end of the book."-Unknown
"To err is human; to forgive, divine."-Alexander Pope
"Put GOD first; He'll bless your efforts with success."-Proverbs

Post Reply

Return to “International Grammar”