comma or colon with salutation? Dear Sirs: / Dear Sirs,



I have been rather confused recently by salutions followed by a colon in formal business letters;

I have been instructed ever since I started learning English that only comma could be placed after salutations...(In Chinese, we do place a colon after salutations)

Could anyone give me some advice?

Thank you:D
  • There are informal and formal ways of writing. If I'm writing a friend, I would say:

    "Dear Sue,

    I'm doing well. How are things with you?"

    If I'm writing a business letter, I would say:

    "Dear Sirs:

    I am writing in response to your letter of 11 December, 2007."

    Perhaps when you started learning English, the business formalities were not considered necessary to be taught at that early time in your learning process.
    The confusion could be because there are different styles on either side of the Atlantic.
    The above comments are AE.
    In BE, use a comma after the salutation in all forms of letter.
    The following word should be considered the beginning of a sentence and capitalised, thus:
    Dear Mr McComish,
    My son has been attending your educational establishment ...

    Here are two useful threads that include more links:
    < This thread has been added to a previous thread. Please scroll up and read from the top. Cagey, moderator. >

    Dear Teachers,
    Is it correct to use a colon instead of a comma after the salutation in a formal letter, say in a letter written by a school principal to a parent? If both are correct, is the comma or the colon preferable? I use a comma. Here follows an example;
    Dear Mr Donald,/:
    Your daughter Elena is...

    Thank you.
    Last edited by a moderator:
    I think a colon looks odd there and I would say the general practice is to use a comma.

    That said, I've received a couple of formal letters recently without any punctuation at all after the salutation. :confused:

    [cross-posted with Loob]
    Thank you very much, Loob and DonnyB. I think the colon is AE usage and the comma is BE usage. Yes, I have also noticed that in some latest books/letter samples no punctuation mark is used. Do you approve of the no punctuation, DonnyB and Loob? Thanks a lot in advance.
    You could be right about the AE/BE distinction. :)

    I always use a comma personally: I think it looks a bit 'bare' without one.
    I normally use no punctuation myself, Emp;).
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    On the "no punctuation" issue, you might find this post by Nat in another previous thread interesting, Emp. One point he makes is:
    [...] 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. [...]
    AE checking in
    In the letter from the principal to the parent, which uses the person's name (Dear Mr. Donald) I'd use the comma.

    For business correspondence, including Dear Sirs, a colon is also OK, and very common, but my personal preference is still the comma, which is the way we were taught.