“Re:” is common in formal letters. You might have read one recently and wondered what it means. That’s okay because we’re here to help you understand it. You’ll know all about “re:” and how it works by the time you’ve finished this article.
What Does “Re:” Mean In a Letter?
“Re:” means regarding or referring to. When used in a letter or email, we use it to refer back to a previous incident or topic that might be relevant to the letter. It’s a good way of connecting information to previous correspondence without having to use the full word “regarding.”
It’s acceptable to use shortened forms in most formal cases. You might think it sounds strange, but we also use short words like “etc.” or “e.g.” when writing formal letters. No rules tell us that short forms aren’t allowed.
Instead, we’re taught that formal letters or addresses work well if we can keep them short and to the point. That’s why using short forms like “Re:” for “regarding” works so well.
What Does “Re:” Mean In a Business Letter?
In a business letter, “Re:” means “regarding.” We use it to refer to something we might have spoken about before with our business associate. It’s a good way to link back to what we know.
You might also find that business letters include “re:” in the tagline or address. This works when you’re addressing a specific person and want to let them know what it’s regarding.
- I’m writing to you re: the issue we discussed at our last meeting. It’s gotten worse since then.
- This letter is re: your healthcare plan, and I think you’ve raised a valid point that I need to go over.
- I’m writing to you re: your proposal for a new expansion, as I think it’s a great idea to go through with.
- This letter is very sensitive. It’s re: your medical condition, and I’m worried that it’s going to prevent you from working.
What Does “Re:” Mean In a Cover Letter?
“Re:” is used slightly differently in a cover letter. In business letters, we can use it in the middle of the text, but this isn’t suitable in cover letters. Instead, we can use it on the subject line to show what job we are referring to with our application.
You don’t include “re;” in the body of a cover letter because it’s likely you’ve never spoken to the person reading it before. Therefore, there’s no reason for you to refer back to anything you might have previously discussed.
- Re: IT Help desk position
- Re: Customer service advisor at The Office LTD
- Re: Assistant to the Regional Manager at Scranton Co.
- Re: The Job Role that I’m looking for
What Does “Re:” Mean In an Email?
In an email, “Re:” can appear in the subject line to reply to a previous email. It can also be placed in the body of the email if there is something specific we are referring to from a previous point.
It’s most likely that you’ll come across “Re:” in the subject line when replying to other emails. Most email services do this automatically, so you don’t have to add it as an extra step.
- RE: The newscast you sent me earlier about closing schools.
- Re: The information you provided me in the last email.
- This email is being forwarded to you re: the issues we’ve had in the staffroom over the last few days.
- Re: The problems with your management style and what you should do to fix them.
You may also like: What Does “Re:” Mean in Email? (Helpful Examples)
Where Should I Place “Re:” In a Letter?
“Re:” in a letter works similarly to a business letter. It’s more common for us to use it in the body of text to refer to a specific incident or problem. We can also use it as part of the address to show who the letter is direct toward (as long as their name comes after it).
- Re: The homeowner
- I’m writing this letter re: the property damage caused by you during your visit.
- Re: The candidate
- This letter is re: all the correspondence you’ve sent to us over the years.
What Is the Difference Between “Re:” and “Ref”?
“Re:” works in two ways. It can mean “regarding” or “referring to,” or it can be used to “reply” to someone. “Ref” is a much less common abbreviation, but you might see it in some formal letters. It only means “with reference to.”
Most people don’t use “ref” because “re:” already covers everything you need to know about it. “Referring” is already covered by the “Re:” umbrella, so it makes sense that most people will stick to that.
In formal writing, it’s common for trends to develop. Once those trends have developed, it’s rare for things to change, and “re:” is seen as the common trend when using references in your writing. There is no reason to change it to “ref.”
Is “Re:” Formal?
“Re:” is formal. It’s an abbreviation, but we can use it formally when we want to remain sharp and to the point. Many formal writers like to do this because it helps readers to understand the main topic throughout their letters or emails.
If we don’t use abbreviations or keep our formal writing succinct, it can create problems for readers. If we make our writing overly confusing by including unnecessary words, most people will be put off by our unprofessional style choices.
Is It “Re:” or “Re”?
“Re:” is most commonly written with a colon. It is correct in this form because the colon allows us to list the exact item we are “referencing” or “regarding” in the letter or email. Without the colon, “Re” looks out of place in a sentence, and people can think it’s a typo.
Is It “Re:” or “RE:”?
“Re:” and “RE:” are both correct. “Re:” works with no capitalization when it’s included in the body of text for both letters and emails. This allows it not to take away from the sentence. “RE:” is capitalized in the subject of emails or letters to show what you’re replying to.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.