Comma after Dear, Hello, or Hi
 
Do not use a comma after the word Dear in a salutation like Dear John.

Do use a comma after the word Hello (or Hi) in a salutation like Hello, John.
 

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Do Not Use a Comma After Dear

There is no comma after the word Dear when it is used at the start of a letter or an email. You should, however, use a comma after the salutation. For example:

Dear Michael,

Thanks for paying for dinner last night.
Dear Sir,

Thank you for your comments on Apollo 11.

In very formal circumstances, you could follow your salutation with a colon. For example:

Dear Mr Smith:

I regret to inform you that your application has been declined.
Dear Professor:

Thank you once again for hosting our discussion.

The word Dear is an adjective. It describes the noun it precedes. Putting a comma after Dear would be as bad as putting one after red in red bus.

A Comma with Hi or Hello

When the salutation in your letter or email starts with Hello or Hi, then you should put a comma before the name of the person you're addressing. It is also standard practice to put a comma after the name of the person you're addressing. For example:

Hi, Michael,

Thanks for paying for dinner last night.
Hello, Sir,

Thank you for your comments on Apollo 11.

Using a colon (instead of a comma) after such an informal salutation would not be an error, but it would be unusual. You could also use an exclamation mark if you wanted to emphasize an emotion (like surprise).

It's All About the Vocative Case

In English, when you address someone (or something) directly, the name you use is offset with a comma (if it's at the very start or end of the sentence) or two commas (if it's in the middle ). When you address someone directly, their name is said to be in the vocative case. In the examples below, the words in the vocative case are shaded:

Dear Michael,

Thanks for paying for dinner last night.
Hello, Michael,

Thanks for paying for dinner last night.

 
END YOUR SALUTATION WITH A COMMA, THEN START AFRESH

With letters and emails, there is a quirk. Even when your salutation ends with a comma, the next sentence (which starts below the salutation) starts with a capital letter. (It is as though the salutation did not exist.) For example:

Dear Michael,

Last night went exactly as planned.
Hello, Michael,

Last night went exactly as planned.

So, you can happily end your salutation with a comma and start the next sentence afresh.

For some people, however, this is too illogical, and they prefer to end the salutation with a colon as opposed to a comma. However, a comma is fine. In fact, it is the most common way to end a salutation.
 


See also:

What is the vocative case?
What are adjectives?
What are nouns?
Commas after a transitional phrase
Commas after interjections (yes, no, indeed)
Commas before conjunctions (and, or, but)
Commas for parenthesis
Commas in lists
Commas with a long subject
Commas with numbers
Commas with quotation (speech) marks
Commas with the vocative case
List of easily confused words




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