Update: Punctuation Marks in Email Greetings…”Do as you please” (The Chicago Manual of Style)!


In 2013, I wrote a post titled “The Correct Punctuation for Salutations that Begin with Hi or Hello”. I was then using the conventional “Dear Ex,” as a default salutation on email messages.  

In 2014, I have gotten tired of “Dear Ex,” and started switching to salutations that are common at the workplace such as “Hi Zap,”; “Hello Yall,”; or “Good morning/afternoon/evening Neo,”. I did not follow this format though. I never likened the structure of it, grammar wise, because I am well aware that there is a big difference between “Dear” and the interjections “Hi”, “Hello”, and “Good morning/afternoon/evening”.

As can be gleaned from the italicized examples above, the common usage at the workplace is that “Hi” is not followed by a comma because it is treated as an equivalent of “Dear”. The thing is, it must not be because “Dear” is an adjective and “Hi” as well as “Hello” or “Good morning/afternoon/evening” is an interjection.

Adjective and interjection differ in syntactic functions. “Dear” modifies a noun—which is, per the format, the name that follows it (i.e., “Dear Jane, …”). The rule says a comma is not required to separate modifiers from the things they modify; therefore, it make sense to have a comma after the name as it only begins a thought. However, “Hi”, “Hello”, and “Good morning/afternoon/evening” are all interjections that when used as an element of a salutation as the very case, it will yield a complete thought or sentence. Hence, they should all be ended with a full stop or an exclamation point as in “Hi, Zap.”; “Hello, Yall.”; or “Good morning/afternoon/evening, Neo!” These are exactly what I have been using since then.

Blame these articles I referred to during that time: “Dear Comma” and “Greeting Card Grammar” by Mignon Fogarty of quickanddirtytips.com. Mignon authors Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 best websites for writers multiple times. It also has an active Podcast that won Best Education Podcast for five times in the Podcast Awards.

Last Thursday, 27 August 2020, a respected workmate assertively challenged the kind of email salutations I use while we were chit-chatting on coffee break. When I said challenged, I meant I was asked to review the punctuation marks I use in my salutations because, apparently, I am the only one who uses a a comma and a full stop in the following email greeting examples: “Hi, Charlize Theron.”; “Hello, Sasha Luss.”; and “Good morning/afternoon/evening, Olga Kurylenko!” He also added that all native English speakers in the office do not follow this, at all, based on their email messages we see on Outlook. I felt the opportune message he wanted to put across and I am grateful for it. The writing mojo got charged!

Over the weekend, I did my homework. I revisited the reliable grammar sites saved in the bookmarks bar for updates regarding my peculiar format. Fortunately, these websites are still all for the use of a full stop to end salutations that begin with “Hi”, “Hello”, or “Good morning/afternoon/evening”: erinwrightwriting.com’s “How to Punctuate Salutations in Emails and Letters“, 30 March 2015; The Chicago Manual of Style‘s “Section 6,38:  Commas with direct address” on cmosshoptalk.com, 09 February 2016;  and blog.editors.ca’s” Perilous Punctuation: The Email Salutation“,  31 May 2016.

That being said, the placement of comma after the name in salutations that make use of the subject interjections as in “Hi Jewel,” or “Hello Merlin,” has already been prevalent a decade ago or so. At this point, it is safe to say that this usage is the trend based on so many articles being published by reputable business and career oriented websites such as, to name a few, indeed.com’s “Professional Email Salutations: Tips and Examples“, 26 January 2020; instructionalsolutions.com’s “Business Email Salutations to a Group“, 11 May 2020; and criminallyprolific.com’s “70 Email Sign Offs To Make People Remember You“, 12 June 2020. These  types of websites have been working hard to swamp search engines with articles as well as blog posts that promote this kind of usage. It certainly paid off I say.

It was no wonder that in 2016, the royalty of grammar sticklers, The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), has thrown in the towel when it published a post that addressed the widespread usage of “Hi” or “Hello” as outright equivalent of “Dear”. The official CMOS ruling: “use a comma before direct address and choose appropriate punctuation after it. In email greetings, do as you please” (Section 6,38: Commas with direct address on cmosshoptalk.com).

There is no need to fret about who and what is correct on this issue anymore. Punctuate your email salutations the way you like it. We are all correct after all as premised on CMOS ruling.

I am happy that CMOS took a heed of the stand being elicited by those who consider “Hi” or “Hello” the same word as “Dear”, regardless of their respective grammar roles. The latter is the reason why it is difficult for me to go with the flow when it comes to using “Hi New,” or “Hello, Fresh,”. This is something that does not sit well with me linguistically and idiolect wise. Until the issue is included in CMOS print manual, I will use my kind of salutation even if it means to be the exception rather than rule.

Other Related Articles:

How to Punctuate “Hi, June” – Greetings and Direct Addresses (grammarunderground.com)

The State of the Email Salutation: Hi, Hello or Dear? (customermanagerservice.com)

A Word, Please: Looking at a comma’s role in a direct address (latimes.com)

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