Should I open the starting sentence after comma in adressing "Hi," ("Hello,") with capital letter?

Hi, Xxxl, Dear Xxx L,
let me ...


Dear Xxx L,
Let me ...

In Russian it is not though it is more than frequently being goofed.

Related question:

  • Context? Letter, email, novel?
    – Benjol
    Feb 9, 2011 at 8:52
  • I'd like to hear about any possible contexts. For example, in Russian, the rule is uniform and universal for all occasions. Feb 9, 2011 at 9:33
  • 1
    Your dilemma seems to stem from two conflicting rules: (1) that there should be no capital letter after a comma; and (2) that a new paragraph begins with a capital letter. This dilemma can be resolved by recognizing that the salutation and the beginning of the letter in fact belong to the same paragraph, even though they are separated from each other by a double line break, which is typographically indistinguishable from a paragraph break, though grammatically different.
    – Toothrot
    Oct 4, 2018 at 12:09

5 Answers 5


I did a quick Google survey (ie searching for 'letters from the queen' etc in Google images and looking at the scanned letters that are generally the result).

-The Queen seems to use a comma and capital

Dear Mr Subject,

Thank you for...

-The President seems to use a colon and capital

Dear Mr Fellow American:

Thank you for..

-The Pope generally uses a comma but NO capital

Dear Mr Believer,

thank you for...

An observation rather than an answer, but if you wanted a precedent...

  • Welcome to EL&U, but please take the site tour and read through the help center to gain an understanding of how this site works and how to craft good answers.
    – choster
    Sep 7, 2014 at 20:15
  • @Jon Nice, but please note that the Pope is not a native speaker of English and probably doesn't use British or American conventions to style his letters (if he writes in English at all).
    – user32638
    Nov 24, 2015 at 10:51
  • 11
    @choster What's not perfect about this answer? I think it is great. +1
    – user32638
    Nov 24, 2015 at 10:52
  • Thanks @Jon, Until now, I have used "Pope" version in both my native tongue and English emails. It's time to put those caps into work :)
    – rluks
    Apr 9, 2018 at 15:13
  • Pope version feels right. After all, you only capitalize beginnings of sentences and a sentence does not begin after a comma. A new paragraph isn't a new sentence, either.
    – Ocean
    Jul 4, 2022 at 15:32

Since this is an informal and nonstandard mode of address (as compared to the more usual "Dear X,") I would say that rules of style are less important than for more conventional letters.

However, as far as I can tell, there is no good reason to oppose conventional style in this case. I would therefore recommend that you stick with the tried-and-true style of using a capital letter to start the letter proper:

Hi Xxxl,

Let me enquire into the origin of your weird name...

Note that there should be no comma between "Hi" and the name of the addressee.

  • Is there a rule that there should be no comma between "Hi" and the name of the addressee? While it is common practice to write "Hi Xxxl", it is not incorrect to write "Hi, Xxxxl".
    – Tragicomic
    Feb 9, 2011 at 9:16
  • I'd also like to know because my colleagues show me official letters from the USA. They are all without comma. Feb 9, 2011 at 9:37
  • 5
    [Before I answer that, I'll reiterate that opening a letter with "Hi" is distinctly informal in tone, so if you're concerned about minor details of proper style and comma placement, determining an appropriate mode of address should be of greater concern.] The rule is that there should be no comma between "Hi" and the name, although there should be one after the name. Being non-standard, such an interrupting comma appears as a deliberate break, and so would be read by a native speaker as a distinct mental pause in the sentence - something you probably don't mean to include.
    – PyroTyger
    Feb 14, 2011 at 13:47
  • why don't I mean to include mental break? This is the purpose of commas while addressing someone... Feb 14, 2011 at 17:31

Formal letters often seem to separate salutation and first line with a colon and thus continuing with a capital letter seems fit:

Dear Ms. Last:

Let me ...

  • 1
    NB: The colon is exclusively used in US English, for as far as I know. I have never seen it in a British English letter.
    – Christian
    Jan 23, 2017 at 22:42

I disagree that the comma is optional. I agree that its use has become generally accepted in informal writing, but I don't think it can be called "correct."

Most importantly, it differs entirely from the thing it's mimicking:

Dear Schnordblast,

Dear, in this sense is more of a title and less a greeting.

In the message, hi is addressed to Xxxl, and it therefore should get a comma to indicate that part 1 addresses part 2.

Knowing entirely that the following is unconvincing, I'll offer one more point: Think of our intonation as you would read it aloud.

Dear Schnordblast,
The years have seemed like hours since we [...]

Hi, Jim --
How goes it on the chicken farm?

In the first, the tone is even or falling throughout; in the second, it does that addressing comma thing (roughly, down on first word, up on second) along with the little stutter pause that others have referred to.

  • 2
    I think you've missed the point of the OP's question, which is about capitalization of the following sentence and not the comma use itself.
    – Lynn
    Aug 1, 2012 at 15:41

I was searching to see if it's common today to (incorrectly) capitalize the beginning of the sentence after the greeting (Dear Dolly,) and am surprise to discover the people answering are lost themselves.
First, there is not a comma after “Hi/hello” but before the name, unless you use a title and name: “hi, my dear sister, Yvette” or if you don’t address anyone: “Hi, this note is to inform our team that…” The only other use of a comma following “Hi” would be in creating a secondary form of addressing the same person, similar to: “Hey, you over there. Do you have the time?” in which case it would actually be written as, “Hey; you over there…” And it is not formal or correct to capitalize after "Dear Dolly," since a cap indicates one of two things: the beginning of a sentence or paragraph; or a proper noun. There is never a capitalization following a comma in any other circumstance. It's very frustrating for those of us who not only study language but love language to see people who do not really know discussing language as if they do know. I think this is a problem because there are so many who see others do something consistently and assume it is correct; or the are self-taught and misunderstood something. The world is full of exceptions to exceptions now, accommodating everyone and not wanting to correct anyone. But it's very frustrating.

  • 2
    It is indeed “very frustrating for those of us who not only study language but love language to see people who do not really know discussing language as if they do know”; clearly, however, you fall into the latter category, if this ‘answer’ is anything to go by. Hardly anything in it (except for the sentence I quoted) is even remotely correct. Sep 7, 2014 at 21:34
  • @JanusBahsJacquet You say: “Hardly anything in it (except for the sentence I quoted) is even remotely correct.” Wikipedia: “In orthography, the uppercase is primarily reserved for special purposes, such as the first letter of a sentence or of a proper noun...” The capital letter means the beginning of a sentence. The dot marks the end of a sentence, not the comma. The capital letter cannot go after the comma because the previous sentence is not finished.
    – Eagle
    Oct 19, 2021 at 11:25
  • @Eagle That is just plain wrong. Except in very specific circumstances, a new paragraph should begin with an uppercase letter, regardless how the previous paragraph ends. The sentence that comes after the greeting is absolutely a new sentence. The fact that greetings (nowadays) traditionally end in a comma rather than a period, colon, exclamation mark or any other symbol, is historical coincidence and utterly irrelevant. Oct 19, 2021 at 11:38

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