'Re:' Is for Email Replies

'Re:' means different things in paper and electronic communications

"Re:" is for replies. StockUnlimited

Back when all messages were delivered on paper, the term "Re:"—followed by a topic—meant "in regards to," "about" or "in reference to." It introduced the subject that the letter was about. Strictly speaking, "Re" is an abbreviated form of the Latin "in re," which means "concerning" or "in the matter of."

With the advent of electronic communications, the term has been repurposed in emails to mean "reply" and is added before the subject line of a previous email message to indicate the new message is a reply to the older message.

When "Re" Confuses

If you put "Re:" in front of the subject of a new message that is not a reply to an older message, the recipients may be confused.

Chances are, they may think they received a reply to a message they did not write with a subject they do not know, or assume the reply belongs to an email thread to which they either do not belong or whose prior messages they did not receive.

Regardless of what might be true in other contexts, "Re:" does not mean "regarding" when used in email subject lines. The subject line of an email message already contains "Subject:" to indicate the line's purpose."

"Re" Is for Replies

To avoid further confusion, don't use "Re" in the subject line and also use it in the text where it means something else. "Re:" should only be used in replies.

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