Grammar Should You Use a Comma After Hello? |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Should You Use a Comma After Hello?

Suppose you’re writing an email or a letter. Should you use a comma after the word Hello, or is another treatment more fitting? We’ll help you arrive at the answer.

Why or Why Not to Use a Comma After Hello

Confusion can surround this matter of style, and guiding answers might not always be clear. That’s because proper usage depends on your perspective and your philosophy of grammar (there really is such a thing).

To elaborate, let’s begin with the fact that a greeting such as Hi or Hello is technically considered a direct address. A direct address would normally be followed by a comma, just as if you were to use the other person’s first name or title (e.g., Mr. Clinkenshire, please pass the gravy.).

On that note, each of the following would technically be correct as the opening to a letter:

Hello,

Hi,

Janice,

President Snow,

Mr. Clinkenshire,

Dr. Duvalier,

That would seem to clarify things, if not for two caveats. The first is that many people will use the word Hello followed by the name itself:

Hello, Janice,

Although this compound form of address would technically be correct, some may find it awkward.

The second issue is that greetings such as Hi and Hello are informal, so you don’t necessarily need to follow strict grammatical rules. You shouldn’t fully disregard the rules, of course, but certain fine points can occasionally be secondary as long as you are clear and understood.

So Where Does That Leave Us With a Comma After Hello?

The best way to treat an opening such as Hi or Hello is to either:

1. use a comma if the word is on its own, or

2. add a comma after the name or title if you are including that.

Any of the following would therefore be acceptable:

Hello,

Hello Dr. Duvalier,

Hi,

Hi Janice,

While some editors and other arbiters of style might debate whether these are optimal applications, the treatments correspond with current conventions and expectations. More important, they are easy to read and understand.

One might even argue that the informal Hi doesn’t need a comma at all, particularly if the salutation isn’t being used in a letter. If you’re simply sending a quick text message, for example, feel free to omit the punctuation.

Need More Grammar Answers?

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3 responses to “Should You Use a Comma After Hello?”

  1. Linda Haley says:

    The purpose of punctuation is to further clarify meaning. The correct placement of punctuation can never hinder meaning, but the absence of punctuation can. What can be hindered by punctuation is style or flow. In most cases, I am old-school and will place punctuation in the designated places. I believe punctuation assists in the smooth reading of text, even in informal writing such as text messages; however, in truly informal writing, I am not botherered when others do not use it.

  2. TJL says:

    To be clear, though, you are saying it is correct to write, “Hello, Dr. Duvalier,” but it is acceptable to write, “Hello Dr. Duvalier,” yes?

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      As the post indicates, although the compound form of address (“Hello, Dr. Duvalier,”) would technically be correct, some may find it awkward; therefore, writing “Hello Dr. Duvallier,” is acceptable and less awkward.

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