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Grammar Tips & Tidbits


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Comma Confusion: Direct Address

Thank you for joining me for another installment of the Comma Confusion Series. It's no wonder commas are so confusing―there are an endless number of rules for using them. The following rules and examples are based on those found in the tenth edition of The Gregg Reference Manual

Rule: When addressing someone directly, use commas to set off the person's name or title.


●   Mr. Brown, how long have you been in business?

●   Yes, ma'am, I would be glad to assist you.

●   Will you be attending the party tonight, Cheryl?

●   Good job, Spencer!

●   I believe, Mrs. Nance, that the transaction will be
    approved momentarily.

On a related topic, many people struggle with the correct placement of commas in e-mail salutations. According to the guidelines provided by The Gregg Reference Manual, all of the following salutations are correct:

●   Marie,

●   Dear Marie,

●   Good afternoon, Marie,

●   Hello, Marie,

●  Hi Marie, *

* The Gregg Referenc
e Manual notes that a salutation such as Hi Marie technically requires a comma after the word Hi as well as Marie. However, it also points out that this is a very informal salutation, and that inserting a comma after the word Hi would be carrying grammatical correctness to an extreme.

When choosing a salutation for an e-mail message, take a moment to consider the recipient and then use your best judgment. Don't forget to use colons at the end of formal salutations―but that's a topic for another issue of Grammar Tips & Tidbits

To read additional issues in the Comma Confusion Series, see the Grammar Tips & Tidbits Archive.

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1. Sabin, William A. The Gregg Reference Manual. Tenth Edition.
         New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2005, pp. 33, 432.