comma or colon with salutation (informal, e-mail): Hi, there

Discussion in 'English Only' started by SuperXW, Jun 14, 2011.

  1. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    If I'm going to write a letter(actually, an informal email, or just this kind of thread on forums) or a script for a speech, and at the beginning I want to greet my readers or audience, what's the standard of using punctuations?
    I heard there's difference between BrE and AmE again, as BrE prefers a colon after the person, is that so?

    For example...
    Hi (?) there (?)

    Hello (?) Mr. Anderson (?)

    Greetings (?) Americans (?)

    Good morning (?) ladies and gentlemen (?)

    Thank you!
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2011
  2. Egmont Senior Member

    Massachusetts, U.S.
    English - U.S.
    AE, in my experience:

    1. After the word(s) of greeting, usually a comma. "Hi there" is one phrase, so the comma goes after "there." You could add a comma within it if you want to create a pause in the speech, but it's not necessary.

    2. At the end of the greeting, a period or exclamation point. This replaces the comma if you do not identify the people you are speaking to, as in your first example where you wrote "Hi there" rather than "Hi there, folks."

    "Hello, Mr. Anderson." Or, with more enthusiasm: "Hello, Mr. Anderson!"

    "Greetings, Americans!"

    "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen." ("Good morning," like "hi there," is a single phrase. In this case a comma inside it would always be wrong.)
  3. Bobbum Senior Member

    As for letters, I was taught many years ago to begin formal ones with "Dear Sir:" And informal ones with "Dear John," for example. As for speeches, I suppose either one would do, as only the speaker would see the punctuation. "Greetings Americans," sounds rather stiff.
  4. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    Turns out "Hi there" is one phrase. :) That explains a lot. I always believed it's "Hi! (the people) there." I was wrong.
  5. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    The words of greeting are called the salutation of the letter.

    The salutation is followed by a comma in social correspondence (as in Dear Aunt Mary,) but by a colon in business correspondence (as in Dear Madam Secretary: )

    Hi there! might be an apropriate salutation for a social e-mail to close friends. It would, however, be a ridiculous thing to write to a stranger, or in a business context (for example, responding on behalf of a bank to a request for a loan.)

    Hello Mr. Anderson sounds odd to me; it might be the opening of recorded instructions to a spy such as one saw in Mission: Impossible.

    Greetings, Americans! would be appropriate if you had just arrived by spaceship from another planet, or else intentionally and humorously wanted to suggest such phrases that were common in old science fiction movies, in which aliens would say things such as Greetings, earthling!

    As the start of an e-mail to multiple recipients, I would prefer Good morning: to Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
  6. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    Thank you! I did often watch English TV dramas and movies...never read a lot...:p
  7. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Just a small point. In BrE, the colon is generally not used at the end of the salutation for both social and business correspondence. If there is any punctuation, this would be a comma. The 'block style' has been advocated by some for a while now, and one feature of this style is the omission of end-of-line punctuation for addresses, salutations and valedictions.

    I agree with the punctuation suggestions for your greetings given above.

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