In an email, if I don't put a new line after the heading, how am I supposed to capitalize the next word?

With a new line, it's straightforward:

Hi Michael,

Please bring the books.

But without one, is it:

Hi Michael, Please bring the books.


Hi Michael, please bring the books.

I would appreciate sources citing a related rule.

  • 7
    There are no such rules for personal emails. For business emails, follow the rules for writing business letters, with the exception of including the postal address & phone numbers of the addressee. It's enough to include the date (but unnecessary since the email is automatically dated), the company name the first time, the addressee's name, & the addressee's title. In all other cases, either follow the standard rules for English punctuation or invent your own. Unless, of course, the government reads your email & puts you in jail for violating the loose conventions of writing mechanics.
    – user21497
    Apr 10, 2013 at 2:17
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    Related but I didn't think it was an exact dup. Others may disagree.
    – Lynn
    Apr 10, 2013 at 2:25
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    I have to point out that a bigger issue is the absence of the comma for direct address. It's not, "Hi Michael," unless "Hi" is an adjective describing Michael. It's "Hi, Michael." Will we ever see the direct address comma return to its rightful place?? Apr 10, 2013 at 2:42
  • @JohnM: I doubt it. >:-(
    – user21497
    Apr 10, 2013 at 2:47
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    @BillFranke +1 and a hearty chuckle for your earlier comment, Bill. (And let's start the Society for the Resurrection of the Direct Address Comma.) Apr 10, 2013 at 4:35

6 Answers 6


There are no hard and fast rules for such E-Mails, even if you are sending them to a colleague. Mostly because of emails being the recent phenomenon compared the the language in itself, I would use the same rules/sense that I use for writing letters. Personally, for a one liner, I would rather just start off without the salutation. And since I am including 'please', it is going to be courteous too. Eg:

Michael, please bring the books.

This way I don't have to worry about capitalizing the second word. But, if you'd like to use a second line, you should capitalize the starting word as suggested by the Purdue online writing lab article, which suggests:

Use standard spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.

and the standard capitalization rules (rule 12) and also this source suggests that 'Hi Michael' is correct and should be followed with capitalization of the next word when the next words starts off in a new line. Here is a book: Handbook of Business letters which suggests similar reasoning on page 50 along with its sample examples there. Here is another source that adds to the practice of capitalizing the first word if we start off with another sentence.


To my knowledge, the only relevant "rule" is to begin the first sentence after a salutation on a new line (and capitalized):

Dear Michael, (or Dear Mr Smith: for more formal settings)

Please bring...

This applies equally to email and regular mail, so if you're looking for a rule to follow, I would follow the established convention.

I know that doesn't answer your question directly, but here's the thing: If you're starting the first sentence on the same line, you're kind of deviating from the rules from the get-go. In that case you're not likely to find a source that says: "Here's the rule to use when you're breaking the rule..."

If you want my 2 cents: I would capitalize the first sentence after a salutation regardless of which line it was on.

  • 5
    +1 for the “deviating from the rules from the get-go” and “rule to use when you're breaking the rule” paragraph. But I disagree with advice to capitalize the first sentence after a salutation regardless of which line it's on, ie, my broken broken rule is different from your broken broken rule. Apr 10, 2013 at 15:52
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    @jwpat7 - Maybe make the alternative its own answer? I have no real strong preference over which broken-broken rule one chooses :)
    – Lynn
    Apr 10, 2013 at 16:18
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    Thanks for the answer Lynn. Just a point I'd agree with @jwpat7, it looks odd to have a capitalized word follow a comma.
    – Ronixus
    Apr 11, 2013 at 14:01

I agree with Lynn in that you should follow the rule of capitalizing in a new line as in regular mail. If you must continue your email in the first line, you're not following mail standards, so I would not consider applying mail writing rules. If you squeeze everything into one line, I would recommend not capitalizing, as it seems very odd to me to capitalize words in a seemingly random fashion within a sentence.


I would say neither of the options you have provided is strictly correct.

Hi is an exclamation, a salutation, so you should use an exclamation mark:

Hi, Michael!

You should include a comma after Hi too, as you pause for breath.

After an exclamation mark, you commence a new sentence, so I believe your ideal punctuation should be as follows:

Hi, Michael! Please bring the books.


You are opting there for either form for letter writing or just a plain message.

So, "Hello, + new line + Capital letter" is a form for letter writing. You need capital letter here, just like in the closing line ("Regards, + new line + Your Name").

"Hello, here is a reply..." is an informal message.

Also, do keep in mind that after comma capital letter is not used, unless the form states otherwise (letters, poems).


Technically speaking, "Hi Michael" is one sentence on its own (a greeting), and it should have a comma before the name since it is direct address (see Chicago Manual of Style 6.28, for example).

So you have a few options here. You could put it all in one line:

"Hi, Michael. Please bring..."

or you could include a line break and have the more "letter-like" greeting:

"Hi, Michael.


Either way, I would make the greeting its own sentence to avoid any awkward punctuation or capitalization issues.

Another option, though slightly different, would be this:

"Michael, please bring..." or "Michael, Please bring..."

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