Letter, e-mail: Opening - form, punctuation and capitalisation

panjandrum

Lapsed Moderator
English-Ireland (top end)
Traditionally:
Dear Jennifer,
It's been such a long time since we have ....


I would always put a comma after Jennifer and capitalise the I of It's.

More often these days, I send an e-mail that does not begin like this.
I often start with:
Jennifer
Hi Jennifer
Hello Jennifer

... Let's just stop there for the moment.
I didn't put any punctuation after Jennifer because I don't want to give my own habits just yet.

I probably begin the message with a capital letter, but I'm not sure.

My question is two-fold.
What punctuation, if any, should I use after opening greetings such as:
Jennifer
Hi Jennifer
Hello Jennifer

?

And should I start the message with a capital letter?
 
  • parap

    Senior Member
    Mainly US English
    I think it depends on what your relationship is with Jennifer. The more intimate, the less formal. I use chat-speak with friends all the time and care little about punctuation and typos. I obviously wouldn't do the same if I was writing to a potential employer or to someone I didn't know (well).
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I'm looking for a reasonable balance between formality and intimacy.
    Let's say that I know Jennifer well as a colleague.
    (And I always care about punctuation and typos :))
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Well, here's my answer...

    In letters, many years ago, I always used to put a comma after "Dear X". But the organisation I worked for didn't have this as standard, so I've got out of the habit. I now write "Dear Sir (etc) without a comma.

    In emails, I don't think I've ever used a comma: I say
    Hi Emma
    Hello Emma
    I don't think I ever say Dear Emma...
     

    parap

    Senior Member
    Mainly US English
    In that case, I would still use traditional forms of address and punctuation:

    Hi Jennifer,

    I was wondering if...


    If I knew her that bit better, I might start with:

    Hey there,
    Just wondering if... / Was wondering if...


    So, yes, still the comma and the capitals. I do that even with the closest of friends.
     

    paintedhouse113

    Member
    English - USA
    If the instant message is to the telegram as e-mail is to written letter, the rules can reasonably be extrapolated it seems from the old books on such things; thus omitting the comma in direct address is acceptable in a telegram or instant message; unacceptable in an e-mail or written letter. Dear, etc. should always begin a written letter; while the agreement over the e-mail's etiquette remains unclear. I am curious what others will say about this. I always use dear, etc. in e-mails, but seldom see the gesture reciprocated.

    It should be clarified as well that till perhaps the thirties in the USA, hey, used as a greeting, was informal, today's what's up; in the many years before then, hello was informal, and how do you do, good morning, and good evening, (but not good afternoon,) were usual. I am unsure of the origin of hi, but would strongly discourage using this dry monosyllable if the intent is at all endearment. If dear, etc. is too old-fashioned, then hello, not hey, hi, is the next step. But why on a forum of the English language would 'Hello Jennifer' ever pass uncorrected, when it should be be Hello, Jennifer, ... or better yet Hello, Jennifer!, if a more personable style is truly what is wanted. I say either Dear Jennifer, the standard form, or Hello, Jennifer!, as the most casual. Otherwise we have fully skipped a step in our formality, from Dear Jennifer, to Hey, Jennifer, ignoring without any good reason the more polite Hello, Jenifer. And when it is Hello, Jennifer! then the following text can be capitalized, but when it is Hello, Jennifer, following by a comma, the following text must then be uncapitalized; and the poor greeting may as well be dropped altogether and carried into the body of the e-mail.
     
    Last edited:

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    In letters, many years ago, I always used to put a comma after "Dear X". But the organisation I worked for didn't have this as standard, so I've got out of the habit. I now write "Dear Sir (etc) without a comma.
    Yes, this is the ‘block style’ that eschews commas in salutations, complimentary closes and address lines. Folks in my general office follow that closely. When I type my own letters, I still use the commas. (I work in a university, and feel I needn’t toe the line.) In a handwritten note or letter, I’d also use the commas. This carries over to email as well. The exception is when it is a note that is shorter than a line when I use a dash, eg

    Jenny - can you check on this please? P
    And I use capitalisation in email and almost always in text.
     

    lablady

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I may be old-fashioned, but I have a tendency to write e-mails in the same way I would write a letter. I use a comma after the salutation and begin the body of the letter with a capital. It's an old habit. It's hard to break.
     

    abenr

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I may be old-fashioned, but I have a tendency to write e-mails in the same way I would write a letter. I use a comma after the salutation and begin the body of the letter with a capital. It's an old habit. It's hard to break.
    We stand as one, Lablady. To do otherwise merely debases long-standing tradition and causes needless confusion.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I'm with lablady and abenr, and I'm not very old. Most of my friends and acquaintances who are my age write e-mails the same way I do.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Thanks for the comments so far, that's all very illuminating.

    I asked because in e-mails, messages, posts and so on I rarely use the formal "Dear ..." style. I think my normal pattern is:
    Jennifer,
    Jennifer:
    Hi Jennifer,
    Hi Jennifer:
    Hi Jennifer.
    Hello Jennifer,
    Hello Jennifer:
    Hello Jennifer.
    The message follows, beginning on the next line with a capital letter.
    None of these feels at all like a poor greeting, to me, and I hadn't thought of using a comma after the "Hi" or "Hello".

    I'm interested in the responses because of course I rarely write to myself so I don't know how one of my e-maiils, messages, posts or whatever, beginning in this style, would be regarded by the recipient.
     
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