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Salutations and Nouns of Address

March 12, 2013

The Noun Hound Is on a Scent

of Salutations and Nouns of Address

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

For the past couple of years, the Noun Hound has been tracking a scent of improperly punctuated nouns of address. Thankfully, the Noun Hound does not receive a treat or biscuit for each time he tracks down an infraction.Perhaps, you remember the dog who wanted to take a “bite out of crime”; well, the Noun Hound wants to take a bit of time to improve grammar and punctuation.

Back at Jacksonville Grade School (yes, that rural grade school with 88 students and four teachers), I learned to use the following salutation for a friendly letter:

Dear Carole,

Since the word Dear is modifying the proper noun Carole, no punctuation is placed between the two words. Only the comma is necessary at the end of the salutation of a friendly letter.

Unfortunately, the Noun Hound has found that too many people are punctuating the salutation in the same manner when the line is:

Hi Mickey, (Bow! Wow! Wrong!)

The interjection Hi does not modify the proper noun Mickey. Thus, punctuation must be placed after the interjection. Each of the following is correct:

Hi! Chloe,

Hello, Chloe,

Hi, Chloe—

Hello! Chloe—

In each of the above four examples, Chloe is the noun of address—the person to whom one is directly speaking by means of verbal or written communication.

In a formal letter or business letter, a colon, rather than a comma or dash, should be placed at the end of the salutation. A semicolon should never end a salutation. In more recent textbooks from which I taught, Dear was acceptable for a business letter’s salutation; however, I would not use Dear in the salutation. Each of the following is correct for the salutation of a business or formal letter:

Mr. Vigo:

Ms. Whitlock:

In a sentence, the noun of address is set off from the rest of the sentence by one comma, two commas, or a comma and another appropriate mark of punctuation as the following examples will show:

Frances, will you autograph your children’s book for my niece?
In this first sample sentence, the noun of address is the first word of the sentence and is followed by a comma.

I hope that you will attend the concert, Betsy.
When the noun of address is the final word of the sentence, the comma precedes the noun of address Betsy.

“Runners, take your marks,” announced the official.
A noun of address may appear more frequently in a direct quotation. Runners is the noun of address and is followed by a comma.

“Please join us for lunch, Mrs. Busy,” said Olivia.
Mrs. Busy is the noun of address and is both preceded and followed by a comma. Olivia is the speaker; Mrs Busy is the person to whom Olivia is directly speaking.

“If you are wondering, George, I already voted,” Isabella whispered.
George is the noun of address—the person to whom Isabella is speaking directly. Falling in the middle of the sentence, the noun of address is both preceded and followed by a comma.

The scout leader commanded, “Ted, take your group over the swinging bridge; Cody, take your group through the covered bridge.”
This compound sentence has two nouns of address. Each noun of address is preceded by the appropriate mark of punctuation and followed by a comma. The scout leader is speaking directly to Ted and then to Cody.

Happy writing!
Alice Jane-Marie Massa, along with Leader Dog Zoe’s buddy—the Noun Hound

March 11, 2013, Monday

Post-script: Zoe wants you to know that the Noun Hound is a sweet, little Basset Hound.

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One Comment
  1. Anna permalink

    Thank you, Alice, for this much needed reminder on the use of coma swith proper nouns. From a fellow Hadley book chat member!

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