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I see a lot of people saying things such as

Nice work, Nick

Or

Thanks, Mat

Is the comma really needed? I'm not 100% sure because my spelling and grammar is not great, but I think it reads very strange.

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2 Answers

up vote 48 down vote accepted

Yes, it is. The name is technically an interjection and must be separated by commas. Whether it is at the beginning of the sentence or the end, it must be separated off.

Another reason is because commas save lives.

It's time to eat Mat.

Here, we're having fried Mat wrapped in noodles for supper.

It's time to eat, Mat.

Here, we're having supper with Mat. It can make a large difference in the meaning.

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27  
Wow, you just saved me from being eaten alive. Thanks :) –  Mat Sep 18 '12 at 14:43
2  
Love it! Since I need to use more than those 8 characters, I'll tack on that if the vocative is fronted, the comma is often replaced with the stronger interrupter, the dash (depending on the way the conversation is perceived): Nick - nice work! Mat - thanks! Mat - it's time to eat. (ruins the joke, though) –  Edwin Ashworth Sep 18 '12 at 14:49
    
Mat still might prefer you to move the interjection to the front. In today's multicultural world, it pays to be safe. –  T.E.D. Sep 18 '12 at 15:04
    
I hope you people do realize not all these pretty upvotes are giving me rep anymore. I think I hit the rep roof. Ouch. –  American Luke Sep 19 '12 at 0:36
4  
"Nice Work Mat"? amazon.com/Larin-AFWM-6-Anti-Fatigue-Work-Mat/dp/B000FOWNN8 –  Ben Lee Sep 21 '12 at 17:26
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The comma is required. This shouldn't be subjective. For example, there is a difference between "how are you my old friend" and "how are you, my old friend." I hope readers can see the difference.

For the case of "thanks john, " the same rules as illustrated in the above window apply. There is actual meaning or grammatical reasoning for the the comma. People often say it goes where a speaker would pause, but that is merely a tip to where it should be placed for young readers.

My sister is a grammarian, professor of english literature, and a librarian. She always said that just because other people drop the comma doesn't mean it is right. This goes for the "in work emails" example everyone uses. In work emails most people also do not put a period after "Thanks, John." They either put a comma or nothing, which are both so grammatically wrong if you press enter and start your paragraph with a capitalization.

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I don't see the difference here...can you elaborate on those two examples? –  Mitch Nov 21 '13 at 17:42
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