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Sometimes I see a comma after the proper name:

Hello Mr. Black,

In order to give you....

But my native language is not English and I think that the comma in this phrase should be placed before the proper name:

Hello, Mr. Black.

In order to give you....

What is the correct punctuation in English?

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Igor in your language, which I presume is RUssian, the correct way is "Hello, Mr. Black!" Привет, Игорь! –  Anderson Silva Oct 14 '10 at 14:57
    
@Andrei I think you have seen "Hello Mr. Black," many times, so have I. So every time I am shocked why not "Hello<comma> Mr. Black". :) [я знаю о запятой при обращении. спасибо, Андрей] –  igor Oct 15 '10 at 22:44
    
That's the first time I've heard this. So what's the right way of showing respect in English? –  brilliant Dec 2 '10 at 5:41
    
The only thing I can say: that comma is related to the vocative. grammar-monster.com/lessons/comma_with_dear_hello_and_hi.htm –  Alfonso Nishikawa Oct 27 at 20:01

7 Answers 7

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Both are correct.

In a dialogue, a pause can be used for effect, putting emphasis on the greeting, eg:

Hello, Mr. Black.

"Hello" is said first, then a pause, then the name. Normally, people would say:

Hello Mr. Black.

Without any pauses in their speech.

When writing a letter or email, it is quite common to do this:

Hello Mr. Black,

Bla bla bla...

Or in a more formal situation:

Dear Mr. Black,

Bla bla bla...

It is uncommon to put a comma before the title even in an informal email salutation (though quite acceptable), but it would never be done in a formal letter/email.

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3  
+1 In my native languages (Russian, Ukrainian) this rule is more restricted. :) –  igor Aug 16 '10 at 10:22
    
:-) What is the rule in Russian/Ukrainian? –  Vincent McNabb Aug 16 '10 at 10:30
1  
@Vincent McNabb "Hello, Mr. Black" (comma should be ALWAYS placed!) –  igor Aug 16 '10 at 10:51
9  
Just a small clarification — under no circumstances should one put a comma after "dear"; in that case, "dear" is an adjective modifying "Mr. Black". –  Kosmonaut Aug 16 '10 at 12:52
1  
In US English, a formal letter opens Dear Mr. Black: with a colon. They use commas only for informal letters. In British English, it should be Dear Mr Black, with a comma for both formal and informal letters. –  TRiG Jul 18 '12 at 19:02

When I read

Hello, Mr. Black

I find that I mentally need there to be a comma at the end as well, or perhaps a full stop.

Hello, Mr. Black, how are you today?

Hello, Mr. Black.

And the result is that the name is emphasized. Whether you want to do this or not depends on the circumstances, but for letter writing this is usually not what you want. If you simply want a standard greeting put the comma after the name (or a full stop if the greeting is your whole sentence).

Hello Mr. Black.

Hello Mr. Black, how are you today?

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In formal writing you would put a comma after greetings: "Hello, Mark." In emails and informal writing, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference. I, for one, feel self-conscious about using commas like that in emails; it seems too formal.

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In the specific case of the opening salutation I would not insert a comma between the greeting and the name if a comma came after the name, but I would if some other punctuation followed the name.

The following examples all "look correct" to me:

"Hi Mark, how are you?" 
"Hi, Mark.  How are you?"
"Hello Mark, what's up?"
"Hello, Mark!  What's up?"

But the "Hi, Mark, how have you been?" example that you gave looks over-punctuated to me.

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The title of the question said “in a letter” in which case you would be better sticking to:

Dear Mr. Black,
How are you today? (The the rest of the letter follows.)

Other forms may be grammatically correct and certainly not a problem in an email. But for a the more traditional context of a letter, I think your safest bet is this one.

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Not placing a comma before a proper noun will change the object of the sentence. The below examples should explain.

Let's eat, John! (Correct)

Let's eat John! (This means you'd like to eat John.)

Let's eat, everybody. (Correct)

Let's eat everybody (This means you'd like to eat everybody.)

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cool, thanks... –  igor Jan 22 at 10:15

You need to place a comma between the salutation and the name of the person addressed. "Hello, Mr. Black. How are you today?"

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protected by tchrist Aug 13 at 14:37

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