Is it possible to use an inversion in this way?

  • Only after people had started working harder, did they improve their skills

Is it natural enough or awkward?

  • It sounds okay. A shorter version, "Only after people started working harder, did they improve their skills" - Not sure why this was down-voted. Jan 7 at 16:50
  • @chasly-supportsMonica - What's about this short version? Can you spell it out a little bit? For, in (or on?) the website when I've written about the inversion there was not (or no?) information about short versions. And there were only these ones with "had verb(3)" Jan 7 at 17:06
  • Or can we use any time what we want in the first part of a sentence? It seems that it's a subtle grammar rule because I cannot find out the thorough answers and explanations in the Internet... Jan 7 at 17:08
  • "in/on the website" Which website are you taking about? Do you have a link to it? Jan 7 at 17:29

It is fine, though I would not put a comma in it.

This kind of inversion, which is rather literary, is required when a negative polarity item is brought to the front of the clause, eg Never, Scarcely, Only (introducing a phrase or a clause), On no account, etc.

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