A ; at the end of "Dear Ms x" ???


Senior Member
English - American
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    The rule I learned in school (in the US) was that the address part of a business letter uses title, last name and colon (not semi-colon). A letter to a friend uses any form of address and a comma. I don't know anything that uses a semicolon. The cover letter sent with a resume is definitely a "business" or "formal" situation, so needs a colon.

    Dear Ms. Bell:


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I learned what dojibear learned.

    In those days it was usually,

    Dear Sirs:


    Senior Member
    English UK
    Like heypresto
    - I don't use any punctuation after Dear X
    - I'm sure there are previous threads.


    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I agree with dojibear. A comma would be appropriate after the salutation of a social letter, and a colon would be appropriate in a business letter, but a semi-colon would simply be wrong in every circumstance. The writer of the piece is also mistaken about another feature of American punctuation, which is that the quasi-honorific "Ms." should be followed by a period, the same way that "Mr." or "Mrs." would be. There are also other problems with the article, and in my opinion, despite all of her pretensions, the writer is not the expert on grammar and punctuation that she presents herself to be.


    Senior Member
    English - London
    The use of the semi-colon seems to be purely American. Like heypresto I had never heard of it, I was taught to use a comma at school in the early 1960s but when I went to work for a major bank the company style guide said not to punctuate there at all.


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Kathryn wants to know whether this punctuation is correct:

    Dear Ms. Gaertner-Johnston;

    What do you think? Is a semicolon correct after the greeting? How about a comma or a colon?

    The semicolon is dead wrong. It is NEVER correct after a greeting. Never in a letter and never in an email.

    Business Writing: Dear Comma, Semicolon, or Colon

    The author is an American specializing in business communication training.
    Last edited:
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