Grammar Tip – Commas With Greetings
A BizWritingTip reader wrote, “When opening an email or letter with a brief greeting, such as Hello (and the person’s name), should there be a comma between the greeting word and the name? For example, which form is proper: Hello, Jane (comma) or Hello Jane (no comma)?
“In school, I recall being told a person’s name would always be preceded with commas, e.g., Thank you, Joe, for your contribution to the annual fundraiser. Would you clarify this for me please?”
You are absolutely right. When placing a person’s name in the middle of a sentence, you put commas around the name indicating that the name is an interrupting thought within the sentence.
Your presentation, Mike, helped us win the account.
However, if the name is being used as a greeting to start a letter or an email, then a comma is placed only after the name. Ideally, you would then leave a blank line and start your message. This gives you good visual appeal and makes your request stand out.
Correct (email greeting)
Are you free for a meeting today at 3?
Correct (letter greeting)
Note: In a letter, use a comma only after an informal salutation (first name only). If the greeting is formal, then use a colon.
Correct (formal letter greeting)
Dear Mr. Brown:
Dear Roger Brown:
Dear Human Resources Manager:
If you do decide to run the name and the sentence on the same line in an email, make sure you put a period after the name. After all, there are two separate thoughts.
Hi John. Are you free to meet at 3?
(Yes, I know Hi John is a sentence fragment. However, no matter what you do here, you will have a grammar error. At least this way the message is clear.)