I see a lot of people saying things such as

Nice work, Nick


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.


4 Answers 4


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.

  • 40
    Wow, you just saved me from being eaten alive. Thanks :)
    – Mat
    Sep 18, 2012 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) Sep 18, 2012 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, 2012 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.
    – Luke_0
    Sep 19, 2012 at 0:36
  • 5
    "Nice Work Mat"? amazon.com/Larin-AFWM-6-Anti-Fatigue-Work-Mat/dp/B000FOWNN8
    – Ben Lee
    Sep 21, 2012 at 17:26

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.


The comma is required. Sentence 3, below, follows the same pattern as 1 and 2, in which the comma is obviously required:

  1. Thanks for asking, Mat.
  2. Thanks, Mat, for asking.
  3. Thanks, Mat.
  • 2
    Hello, Ralph. Patterning sadly is not an infallible guide to what is and what is not acceptable. It has been stated elsewhere on ELU that it is not always mandatory to offset parentheticals (here, the appositive) where confusion will not thus arise, and that there is similarly a choice between inserting a comma to indicate a preferred pause and omitting it to give smoother flow where desired (again, where confusion will not thus arise). Jul 27, 2017 at 23:16

A comma is not required here and should generally be disfavored. You should generally write the same way you would speak. A comma often represents a pause. Nobody says "Thanks [pause] James"; rather, you say "Thanks James." Adding a comma here can actually increase ambiguity when there are multiple people part of an email chain, because people typically "sign" the end of an email letter with ", [name]". For example, "Thanks, Joe" is ambiguous as to whether Joe is the person being thanked or the person giving thanks.

"It's time to eat, Mat" is a cute and useful example of where it would be critical to include a comma even though a speaker might not pause before saying Mat. However, this atypical example doesn't support writing "Thanks, Mat" if you're trying to thank Mat.

There is no "technical" grammatical reason to include a comma in "Thanks, Mat" where you are trying to say "Thanks Mat."

Consider the following:

  • Generally, write how you would speak
  • Good writing makes the reader's job easy
  • Think independently about what makes for clear writing, as opposed to always seeking a technical rule [Edit of Sept. 2016 -- To address the comment below: I should have been clearer with this bullet point. I am not advocating for people to invent their own rules or to disregard broadly accepted rules. My point is that a writer should not try to inject a rule where there is no rule. In such a situation, put yourself in the reader's shoes and use your brain. This is not a novel or fringe concept; for example, read Bryan Garner.]
  • 1
    No... just, well, NOOO. That is like the worst thing I have ever seen written on this site yet. The EXACT opposite of what one should be doing. Just remember, once and for all: a comma is not a pause! And one SHOULD always seek for a technical rule. That's the way it works. Otherwise, as American Luke has pointed out, the world would be eating Mats. And 'punctuation' wouldn't even be a thing.
    – Max
    May 18, 2016 at 22:09
  • Further, there is a pause, or an equivalent change in tone, when the interjective "Mat" is spoken. It may not be a half-second period of silence, but it is there and perceived, and this is how the listener is able to parse the sentence. When the pause/tone change is absent then it takes the listener longer to understand what is said, and there is more likely to be confusion.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 4, 2016 at 2:54

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