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Is it technically correct to write

Hello, Bob,

It looks wrong to have a comma immediately after the first word, but given that "Hello" is very syntactically different from "Dear/My Dear", it seems that a vocative comma is required. Is this seemingly wrong practice technically necessitated when beginning an e-mail with 'hello', 'hi', etc?

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Great question.

Of late, I've been striving to include the comma. When I fail to do so, I feel as if I have wrongly punctuated the salutation. Still, I suppose it is a matter of context. I'm a lawyer, and most often, my emails are written with formality.

If one is writing an email in a formal context, I believe the comma is appropriate. In an informal context, the comma feels stilted. There is a Chicago Manual of Style Q&A note on this subject, and it suggests the same.


Also, I suppose it is worth making the allusion in your question explicit: In Dear John, the word Dear is an adjective modifying John. In My Friend, the word My is a possessive pronoun modifying Friend. But, in Hello, John, the word Hello is an interjection, not a modifier.

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  • There is a duplicate question, with a highly upvoted answer. However, ELU really values precedent, supporting references from a recognised authority. And your answer is the first to provide a reasonable link to a reasonable semi-authority (CMoS must surely edit even Q&A material). Happily, the previous answer agrees almost entirely with yours. // I usually choose to prioritise logic and style over complex rules (when clarity isn't an issue) when it comes to punctuation. I might use Hello Bob – Just a quick text; I'm really in a mad rush today to match the activity level, but Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 15:31
  • Hello, Bob ... I'm glad you've come to your senses and retired from teaching at long last. to convey a hopefully shared tranquillity, with plenty of pauses to sit and chill. Omitting the comma can easily appear hectoring. Of course, these are informal examples. The overarching rule with all formal writing (are emails ever formal?) when it comes to deciding in grey areas is 'What does the boss / editor / President / institution ... expect?' They should have a dedicated style guide (which may differ from that of the next nearest institution). Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 15:32

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