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Using Commas With Names and Greetings

A graphic of a comma next to the title of the article text: "Commas with names & Greetings," and an example: "Good morning, Michael."

Let’s take a look at commas with names and salutations, as we’ve been receiving various questions on the topic from our readers:

Are There Commas After Greetings?

Question: Do I have to use a comma with a person’s name when I say “Hi” or “Hello”? For example:

Hi, Maria.    Hello, Nigel,   Good morning, Kendra.

Answer: Yes, you need to use a comma between the person’s name and the greeting. (But see exceptions below.) The reason is “direct address.” We use commas to show that we are talking to the reader, not about the reader.

Hello, Rene.
Danny, thank you for your thoughtful message.
Congratulations, Michael!
I hope you know, Donelle, that we appreciate your hard work.
I am writing to you, Kathryn, with some sad news.

Exceptions

Exception: Don’t use a comma with the greeting Dear, as in:

Dear Claudio:     Dear Claudio,

If you are wondering why I have shown the Dear Claudio greeting (salutation) with both a colon and a comma, the colon (:) is used in business letters. The comma is used in personal ones (congratulations, condolences).

 

Exception: At times–for example, in email–you may choose to leave out the comma before the name when the greeting is “Hi”:

Hi Freddie,     Hi Jess!     Hi Gregg–

You can make that choice to have a breezier, less official sounding greeting. However, it still makes sense to use a comma with longer greetings:

Good morning, Ahmed.     Hello, Treena,

A note on Microsoft Office: The spellcheck feature in Office will flag sentences with “thank you” and a person’s name, with the suggestion “Fragment (consider revising).”  Example:

Dahlia, thank you for the concert tickets.

Sentences like the one above are perfect–ignore the suggestion.

If you have questions about commas, check our punctuation tips section, or pick up a good reference book. For business letters, we recommend  The Gregg Reference Manual.

The Takeaway

You should use a comma between the person’s name and the greeting. The reason is “direct address.” The are two exceptions: 1. No comma is needed when using “dear.” 2. You may opt for a breezier greeting in an email by leaving out the comma, such as “Hi Jen.”

Bye for now, Reader.

Lynn

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Alternate search spellings: salmutation, saltuation, salutaion, greetng, greting, emial.

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

11 comments on “Using Commas With Names and Greetings”

  • Hello.

    I have a question about salutations.

    I have seldom been comfortable with “Dear” which is an inaccurate adjective in most instances. In formal writing, is there any alternative?

    Then, regarding email, it bugs me to put a comma after “Hi Freddy,” as I think it should be “Hi, Freddy.” –period. To me, this is a sentence. It seems illogical to put a comma at the end, just because one’s in the habit of doing so for adjective-based salutations. I mean, “Dearest Frederika,” or “Beloved Fred,” obviously are not sentences. I prefer, “Freida, Hello.”
    What do you think?

    I’m also uncomfortable with signing off with “Regards” and what not. It seems superfulous and fake. I use “Sincerely” for formal letters, but mostly, prefer to just put my name at the end, unless it’s very personal. Does that work?

    *Otherwise, I am not particularily attentive to grammar. It’s just these repeat occasions that nag at me.
    Thank you for any consideration that you can give this.
    -Jo

  • Jo, I have written about these topics. Scroll through my Frequently Asked Questions category. In January of 2006, look for the post “With Best Wishes.” In August 2005, look for “Do I Have to Call You Dear?” I think these will respond to your questions.

  • Hi, Lynn,
    How would you interpret the following frases (a song name):
    1) I am cooking baby.
    2) I am cooking, baby.
    Thanks and best regards,
    Alexandr
    Praha, CZ

  • Alexandr,

    Without the comma, the first one suggests the speaker is cooking the baby. It’s only a suggestion, of course. We know better.

    In the second one, the speaker is addressing someone as “baby.” “Cooking” has a lot of slang meanings. My first thought is “I’m really into it.”

    In either case, you might want to use the contraction “I’m” rather than “I am.” The contraction sounds like natural speech. “I am” sounds more emphatic.

    Hope that helps. Keep on writing and singing.

    Lynn

  • Need to confirm when using multiple names in the signature section of a greeting card do you use commas after every name ie.

    Matt, Mark, Andrew, and Karen or is it Matt, Mark, Andrew and Karen?

  • Dear Lynn,

    I’m a little confused with using a comma after Hi or Hello. Is it necessary to put in a comma whenever we just write “Hi”.

    Thanks
    Divya

Comments are closed.