Re: Re

Another question from the Peanut Gallery:
Ted asks:
“When returning email back and forth with one or a number of individuals on the same subject (otherwise referred to as email tennis), is it correct to keep adding in the subject yet another Re Re……?”

I think the answer is No, Ted. I’ve been involved in a number of games of Email Tag or Email Ping-Pong, as this practice is also called in various sectors. I think Microsoft Office automatically adds another Re: after each volley, but theoretically it shouldn’t. Here’s why.

Another popular Writing Tip of the Day website (now don’t y’all go and leave me!) explains what Re actually means: (from<>)

Re: is used at the top of letters and emails in order to steer the reader to the single most important topic of the message:

Dear Sir,
Re: Your order of 10/3/09

I’ve seen Re: explained as an abbreviation of the words “regarding” or “referencing.”
However, Re is not an abbreviation for anything. Re: means “re.”

Re is an English preposition in use since at least the 18th century. It means “in the matter of, with reference to.” It is a Latin word, the ablative form of the Latin noun “res” meaning “thing” or “affair.” Lawyers use the legal phrase in re when a proceeding is not brought by a person, but has to do with something like probate or a public project like laying out a highway.

So, Ted, if there is more than one Re, it would mean “in the matter of in the matter of,” which would be repetitively redundant. So feel free to lose the extra Re. (Hey, that rhymes!)


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