This Week’s Grammar Tip

Commas with direct address


“A comma is used to set off names or words used in direct address.

  • Ms. Jones, please come in.
  • James, your order is ready.
  • Hello, Ms. Philips.
  • Hi, Pratchi. Please sit down.
  • Take that, you devil.
  • Kiss me, you fool!
  • Are you listening, class?
  • It’s time to go, Marta.
  • I am not here, my friends, to discuss personalities.

In correspondence, a comma typically follows the greeting, though a colon may be used instead (especially in formal correspondence).

  • Dear Lucien, . . .

If the greeting itself consists of a direct address, two marks of punctuation are needed (i.e., the comma in the direct address and the colon or comma following the greeting). (The first mark is often left out in casual correspondence.)

  • Greetings, Board Members: . . .
  • Hi, Karel, . . ."

The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. ¶ 6.53

  • My two cents: The classic example of how a sentence can turn disastrous (or funny, depending on your sense of humor) is “I already ate Grandma.” Unless you are the Big Bad Wolf and you’re speaking to Goldilocks, I cannot stress enough the importance of putting a comma between ate and Grandma