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Hello,

My questions concern writing official/business letters.

1. Do I use a dot after Mr in the salutation?
2. Do I use a comma or a colon or nothing at all after the salutation?
3. Do I start my first sentence with a capital letter?

My head of department says that using a comma and starting the body with a capital letter are just "things people do" however, he claims that it is not "proper English".

Could you please let me know the official rules for starting a letter? Best would be if you could direct me to a link with such regulations.

Thank you very much

zs
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Hello lapislazuli, and welcome to English Forums.

1. Do I use a dot after Mr in the salutation?-- No dot is becoming the accepted form, but both are OK.
2. Do I use a comma or a colon or nothing at all after the salutation? -- Most use a colon for a business letter-- but again, I believe that BrE prefers no punctuation these days.
3. Do I start my first sentence with a capital letter? -- Yes, of course. Every sentence begins with a capital letter.

Business practice (I mean punctuation) varies slightly from style guide to style guide. And there are certainly [url=http://www.ssdd.bcu.ac.uk/learner/writingguides/1.06.htm ]websites[/url] out there. I suggest that you follow the guidelines promulgated by the head of your department.
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Anonymous I believe that the first sentence actually starts with the salutation which is followed by a comma and therefore a capital letter is not used (unless it is a proper noun) again in that first sentence. I was taught this way 40 years ago and am surprised to realise that most people are now capitalising the first word after the salutation.
Well, when I worked with Pitman's, the leading secretarial training organisation England forty years ago, the first sentence had to begin with a capital letter. as it still does.
Anonymous If the first sentence of the letter was capitalised, (i.e. the sentence did not include the salutation), then the salutation would more correctly be followed by a fullstop/period.
Many punctuation 'rules' are based on convention, not logic.And, there is no general agreement on many.
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Thank you, Mr Micawber.

zs
I too have been looking for an authoritative answer to Lapislazuli's question 3, (Do I start my first sentence with a capital letter), and to date have not found one. I believe that the first sentence actually starts with the salutation which is followed by a comma and therefore a capital letter is not used (unless it is a proper noun) again in that first sentence. I was taught this way 40 years ago and am surprised to realise that most people are now capitalising the first word after the salutation. If the first sentence of the letter was capitalised, (i.e. the sentence did not include the salutation), then the salutation would more correctly be followed by a fullstop/period.
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 fivejedjon's reply was promoted to an answer.
In U.S. english it is common logic to place a dot after the 'Mr.' as it is an abbreviation. In B.E. it is customary not to.

In British, Canadian and Australian english they put a comma after the salutation.

Even though it may not seem logical after the salutation to place a capital letter there, I assume it has been customary probably for a very long time.Emotion: smile