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I have a follow up question to this question: Should you use a comma/period after "Thanks"/"Regards" in email signatures?

My question is: when should you add a comma when starting a letter/email with

Hello John,

It was fun to see ...

I am pretty sure that a comma goes after the name, but lately I have seen several people (academics) write

Hello, John,

It was fun to see ...

with a comma after the Hello.

I am wondering when a comma there is appropriate.


I see this question Where should the comma be placed in the salutation of a letter? but I am wondering about the situation where you have a comma after the name also.

  • I don't know the correct answer to this, but from experience of receiving lots of emails from all the world's financial exchanges, I can say that I've never seen anyone - native or non-native - use a comma in "Hello Armen". I've always wondered myself whether there should be a comma, but I've always replied with the same punctuation, or rather, the lack thereof. I am not sure how competent in punctuation an average customer support clerk at a financial exchange is. – Armen Ծիրունյան Nov 4 '14 at 19:01
  • @ArmenԾիրունյան: Yeah. The reason I ask is that I have seen it now several times from people at universities using this comma. – Thomas Nov 4 '14 at 19:02
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    It is correct to use a comma before a word used to address someone. These days, this is a stylistic concern and not truly grammatically important. Most people (English scholars especially) forget that grammar is fluid and changes with common usage. – Mr. Mascaro Nov 4 '14 at 19:58
  • Even the traditional comma after the salutation is now not considered mandatory (and using 'Hello[,] John' has surely only become acceptable within the last 40 years). This from Wordreference.com: For a letter, I think the comma is normal (in American-style business letters, a colon is also possible with the salutation). In business letters, you might also see a style with minimal punctuation – no comma after the salutation (Dear Jill) ... For emails, there is no strict rule. It depends on the level of formality. [tidied] – Edwin Ashworth Nov 4 '14 at 22:46
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I will back my statement up based on the fact that I have a bachelor's degree with a minor in English, and that I have a few grey hairs.

We must keep in mind that there is no official sanctioning body that dictates how to use commas in a salutation that includes the word "Hello."

In my years, I have come across many different interpretations on how to technically use a comma. I have also witnessed academics use commas in different ways.

In time, I came to realize that there is an unwritten code when it comes to the rules of writing. I personally describe the code as follows:

First, if you are a college undergraduate, write in the format that your instructor(s) tells you to.

Second, if you are a college graduate, you have earned the right to use your own writing style, unless you are taking a graduate course that has an instructor who requires that you write in a specified style that is different from your preferred style.

Third, college graduates generally respect the writing style of other college graduates whether they agree with the style or not. When reading the written works of a fellow graduate, the objective is to gain an understanding of what the fellow graduate is expressing. If there is a problem with understanding what that person has written that is based on the person's writing style, then the reader respectfully asks (or probes) the writer for clarity and understanding.

The following is an interpretation from The OWL of Purdue University that I feel best indicates how to use a comma:

It states "Use commas wherever necessary to prevent possible confusion or misreading." Reference: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/owlprint/607/

In my opinion, the best thing that a person writing a letter, email, or paper can do, is to account for the reader's ability to comprehend the logic included within their written expression and the reader's ability to read the writing aloud with proper vocal inflections and cadence.

Which one of the following statements make more sense logically or when read aloud?

"I had a peanut, butter, and jelly sandwich for lunch."

Or, "I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch."

In the case of the use of the word "Hello" in a salutation, placing a comma after the word "Hello" and then another one after the name neither helps the reader to logically comprehend the point of the comma separating the word "Hello" from the name, nor does it help the reader to read the words aloud with the proper inflections and cadence.

Based on the foregoing, I recommend using the comma after the name when writing a salutation that includes the word "Hello."

Try reading the following two versions aloud:

Hello, Jane,

It was a pleasure spending time with you and the children yesterday.

Hello Jane,

It was a pleasure spending time with you and the children yesterday.

Today, speakers of the English language will generally prefer the latter version (that has only one comma after the word Jane) in written form and when read aloud. Using the other format will make a person sound somewhat robotic when speaking aloud.

Finally, if you are a grade school or college undergrad student, I recommend you ask your instructor which format he or she prefers. Follow that teacher's format and be willing to change formats from teacher to teacher if necessary.

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    You ask which of the two lunch sentences makes more sense logically. The answer is that they both make an equal amount of sense, but the boring peanut butter and jelly sandwich is much more common. – Omar Antolín-Camarena May 9 '16 at 18:59
  • You left out a couple of levels.   (4) If you are writing for publication (e.g., in a journal), follow the publisher’s style guide.   (5) If you write as an occupation (i.e., a job; e.g., working for a newspaper or writing textbooks), follow your employer’s style guide. – Scott Feb 25 '18 at 18:32
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I was taught, lo, many years ago, that you should use a comma before the name of the person(s) you address. Therefore, "Hello, John" is correct. I've been looking through all of my manuals to find a source. I haven't found one yet, but I know that I will find it if I keep looking. If you're only communicating with one person, there is no need to use the name, as the recipient of the greeting is obvious. However, using the name is a nice way to personalize a message. I would never use a comma after the name. I would end the sentence there. To run your sentence of greeting directly into a sentence of substance seems a bit inauthentic, as if the nicety of a greeting isn't as important to you as what you want from the person you are addressing. You should give the greeting its due, or dispense with it and just use a traditional salutation (John:). The only exception is when the phrase that follows the greeting is short: "Hello, Mary, are you there?"

For a business email, the first sentence would be the greeting (if you're using one). The next sentence would be the start of the actual message. I agree that many have stopped using the comma after "hello." Unfortunately, this sloppiness probably will become accepted because it has become so common (the double entendre is intentional).

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    Why is a departure from what you were taught by one school many years ago necessarily sloppy? Doubtless you were taught 'rules' that were considered heretical 150 years ago. I can find 'authorities' (whatever they are) recommending the use of commas to signal brief pauses to be understood by the reader, where grammatical concerns (the need to distinguish between confusable constructions) are not a priority. 'Hello John!' is brusquer than 'Hello, John'. Neither is incorrect. Neither is sloppy. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 4 '14 at 22:35
  • Thanks for the answer. I updated my question a bit to make it more clear. I am specifically wondering about the use in writing emails and letters. – Thomas Nov 6 '14 at 1:16

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