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Author Topic: Comma after "Once upon a time"?  (Read 629 times)  

Offline RRodriguez

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Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« on: June 14, 2018, 04:50:23 PM »
I am terrible with commas and my research leads me anywhere from "always", to "it depends", and as all my books start with Once upon a time, I'd better figure this out quick.

Please note, I'm not asking for critique or criticism on my decision to use this phrase, just trying to figure out proper comma placement. Neither of my editors included one for my first book, but now beta readers are coming back to me with some suggestions for my second book, and they're telling me the comma is necessary.  What say you?

Ex. 1 "Once upon a time a prince named Killian looked up at the heavens and sprinkled shards of diamond in his hair."

Ex. 2 "Once upon a time a witch named Gingerbread sat alone in the dark and awaited her trial."
« Last Edit: June 14, 2018, 05:23:25 PM by RRodriguez »
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Offline Lorri Moulton

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2018, 04:51:22 PM »
I would...but commas are my nemesis.  ::)

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Offline Lynn Is A Pseudonym

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2018, 05:22:12 PM »
Definitely use a comma in these instances.

Offline Ruairi

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2018, 05:22:55 PM »
Using commas to separate clauses: Commas are used to separate clauses in a complex sentence (i.e. a sentence which is made up of a main clause and one or more subordinate clauses).

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/punctuation/comma

The examples are complex sentences with the "Once upon..." being a subordinate clause.    If you remove the subordinate clause the examples still work.

Ex. 1 "Once upon a time, a prince named Killian looked up at the heavens and sprinkled shards of diamond in his hair."
Ex. 1 "A prince named Killian looked up at the heavens and sprinkled shards of diamond in his hair."

Ex. 2 "Once upon a time, a witch named Gingerbread sat alone in the dark and awaited her trial."
Ex. 2 "A witch named Gingerbread sat alone in the dark and awaited her trial."

Or not, I have been wrong on so many occasions...   :o

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Offline Safia A.

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2018, 05:24:29 PM »
From a grammatical perspective, I think the comma is completely optional.

That being said, do you want the reader to have some sort of reflective pause before continuing with the rest of the sentence? If so, I would add a comma.

If the first sentence is meant to be brisk and quick, I wouldn't include the comma.

Offline The Prose Polisher

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2018, 08:04:20 PM »
It is an introductory phrase, customarily set off with a comma.
https://cstw.osu.edu/sites/cstw.osu.edu/files/comma_use.pdf

Online Kathy Dee

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2018, 11:33:05 PM »
It depends upon the next word. For those examples, I would use a comma. However if the next word (after time) had been 'in' for example, then no comma would be required after the word 'time' e.g. Once upon a time in Seattle,.


Offline notjohn

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2018, 05:09:49 AM »
Definitely a comma.

There's a wonderful memoir of Vietnam by Jim Morris, War Story, which begins with the epigram: "The difference between a fairy tale and a war story is that the fairy tales begin "Once upon a time," and the war story begins "This is no s***." If you ever graduate to the latter, I would suggest that you follow it with a full stop.

These are declarations that, as another poster pointed out, are an invitation to reflection, hence require a pause of lesser or greater length.
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Offline Joseph M. Erhardt

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2018, 06:00:15 AM »
I agree with the other posters.  Add a comma.

I could, in fact, do a ten-minute stand-up on what happens when commas go missing or improperly inserted.  But that would make me be a comma comma comma comma comma comedian.

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Offline AuthorX

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2018, 06:40:43 AM »
Comma in both instances.

Offline CathleenT

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2018, 06:58:42 AM »
Actually, the comma is optional. I wouldn't use it. Purdue recommends commas only for introductory phrases five words and longer.

And since you've got some wiggle room here, as a writer of fairy tales, I don't think the comma adds. But it's your story, so it's your call.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2018, 08:45:27 AM by CathleenT »

Offline mydumbname

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2018, 07:20:28 AM »
It is optional but, personally, I would use a comma.

Offline Philip Gibson

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2018, 10:45:44 AM »
I consider introductory phrases like that to be 'time phrases', and I always follow them with a comma.  Same with place phrases when they are used as introductory phrases.

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Offline SeanHinn

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2018, 12:34:28 PM »
When it's close, as it is in this case, I read the sentence aloud. If there's a natural pause in the way I want to narrate the moment, I include the comma.

There's something to be said for taking a bit of artistic license with commas. Cadence and rhythm matter. If I am trying to overwhelm a reader with emotion, or sweep them away into a moment, I might exclude a grammatically correct comma. If I want a clause to be distinct, I'll include it. I generally use the Oxford comma, but there are times I don't want those pauses, particularly when I want the reader to fall freely down the rabbit hole. Example:

"She inhaled deeply, and in that breath she tasted all the colors of the world - all the life and death and joy and pain that had ever been, and would ever be."

A bit saccharine, I know, but you get the idea... you could add three more commas to that sentence and be grammatically correct, but it would not feel the same.

Along these lines (and a bit of an aside): another great piece of advice I got from an editor once was that, in action sequences, a comma between two independent clauses was not as powerful as a period; the idea being, if a statement or action is powerful on its own, don't diminish it by including it in a list. Let it stand alone. Both ways can be grammatically correct, but usually one or the other fits the rhythm of the moment better.

I think, somewhere in these ideas, lies the difference between good writing and great writing. I don't claim to know which is which, but I know what I like, and how different applications of commas make me feel personally.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2018, 12:36:03 PM by SeanHinn »

Offline ameliag

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2018, 04:11:46 PM »
Depends how you use it.

As a title, no.

In the story, yes.

Offline Flay Otters

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #15 on: June 15, 2018, 06:43:21 PM »
No.

Offline dgcasey

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #16 on: June 15, 2018, 07:31:58 PM »
I am terrible with commas and my research leads me anywhere from "always", to "it depends", and as all my books start with Once upon a time, I'd better figure this out quick.

One of the ways I use a comma is for a breath or slight pause for effect. So, if I wrote that, I would use a comma after "Once upon a time," to have the reader pause for a second. It would be like writing, "Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away."
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Offline Jeff Tanyard

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #17 on: June 15, 2018, 09:00:47 PM »
I agree with the other posters.  Add a comma.

I could, in fact, do a ten-minute stand-up on what happens when commas go missing or improperly inserted.  But that would make me be a comma comma comma comma comma comedian.


You comma gooooo... you comma gooooo-oooo-oooooo...

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Offline Evelyn Alexie

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #18 on: June 15, 2018, 09:13:14 PM »
If what comes after the phrase is a complete sentence, then yes it needs a comma to set it off.

Once upon a time, I would've gone into Comma Nazi mode with tons of examples. Must be getting old(er). Get offa my lawn, you whippersnappers.
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Offline Bristle

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #19 on: June 15, 2018, 10:27:40 PM »

These two examples (in the OP) seem to be introductions so I'd go with a comma.
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Offline Decon

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #20 on: June 16, 2018, 05:30:56 AM »
When it's close, as it is in this case, I read the sentence aloud. If there's a natural pause in the way I want to narrate the moment, I include the comma.

There's something to be said for taking a bit of artistic license with commas. Cadence and rhythm matter. If I am trying to overwhelm a reader with emotion, or sweep them away into a moment, I might exclude a grammatically correct comma. If I want a clause to be distinct, I'll include it. I generally use the Oxford comma, but there are times I don't want those pauses, particularly when I want the reader to fall freely down the rabbit hole. Example:


From a grammatical POV, I find it hard to know sometimes if something is an independant clause, or not, especially when "and" is involved in the sentence, which is why I use an editor. I too use the Oxford comma and other norms as required. The only clue I have if the "and" is followed by a separate clause is if the sentence should read, "and then."

Saying that, I use text to speech rather than reading aloud myself, and you can hear where pauses or rewriting sentences are required. Rarely does the editor suggest deleting or adding a comma other than when I guess if what begins with "and" in the sentence should be a separate clause, or not, as the case might be.

For forum posts I don't take much care with them and stick them in Willy Nilly.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2018, 06:01:26 AM by Decon »


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Offline Carey Conley

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #21 on: Yesterday at 05:59:45 AM »
Surprised that no one else pointed out to you that "Once upon a time"? should read as "Once upon a time?"

Punctuation goes inside the quotes...

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #22 on: Yesterday at 06:16:12 AM »
"Seeking the guidance of colleagues is, I discovered, dangerous: raise almost any point of usage with two journalists and you will almost certainly get two confident, but entirely contradictory, answers."
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Offline Sam Kates

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Re: Comma after "Once upon a time"?
« Reply #23 on: Yesterday at 06:24:01 AM »
Surprised that no one else pointed out to you that "Once upon a time"? should read as "Once upon a time?"

Punctuation goes inside the quotes...

Depends where you are. In the UK, punctuation (unless it's part of the quote) goes outside the quote marks.
 
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