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rebbel's avatar

Re. "re."; how, and when, did that writing manner suddenly come into fashion?

Asked by rebbel (33233points) July 8th, 2018

I’ve seen this re. being used in writings more and more this last couple of months.
From where and how it is used in sentences I take it it is meaning regarding (although I could be wrong of course).
Is this something you have noticed as well, and/or do you use it yourself?
Is it new, or has it just escaped my attention for the last four decades?
If we start cutting words in very small parts, will we in twenty years time all write in steno?

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10 Answers

Demosthenes's avatar

Apparently the word “re” by itself can be used to mean “regarding”, and it actually is not a shortening of the word “regarding”, but rather the Latin word “re” meaning “thing, matter, subject” used in legalese. I was just using the shorthand “re.” for “regarding” that I’ve sometimes seen written, but apparently “re” alone is fine. The writer David Foster Wallace often used “w/r/t” in his writing (meaning “with regard to”). After reading a few of his essays, I starting using that sometimes too.

For some reason the sense of “regarding” is something we seek abbreviations for.

Jeruba's avatar

It was nothing new in the 1960s, at least in legal or quasi-legal correspondence.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It’s been around for as long as I could read, and I’d bet that Jeruba is right in the shorhand crossing over from the legal field.

rebbel's avatar

I would bet that too, @stanleybmanly.
Thanks, all, I had no idea it was that common.

zenvelo's avatar

I have used it in business writing for the last thirty plus years.

And it is not an abbreviation, there is no period, just “re” .

Zaku's avatar

Some email programs automatically add “re: ” before the Subject text when replying to an email.

JLeslie's avatar

In business it’s been around a very long time. Memos had re: for the subject. I used to write up memos and we would fax them.


In fact the cover page for a fax would have that format too.

My guess is that format was done even back when the only way to send paperwork was snail mail.

I think maybe email had it to, but I just can’t remember right now if it always said subject, or if it said re also?

Wow, my memory sucks.

Anyway, re was part of the sentence being dictated to you. “To Jennifer Juniper, from Rita Redding, date 7 8 18, re travel expenses. With something like that we knew to add the colons, but the colons might be said also if the dictation was very thorough. From there I bet re started being added into nirnal speach as a substitute/synonym for the word regarding. That’s my guess.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if that was part of shorthand. I took shorthand for a quarter in 7th grade, and I don’t remember if re was taught to me or not. Again—memory sucks. I don’t remember any shorthand, because I didn’t use it again, except for symbols and abbreviations I started using myself. To this day I draw a triangle for change.

LadyMarissa's avatar

I was born in 1950 & it was commonplace in business correspondence meaning “Regarding” so you didn’t need to spend half of the letter explaining what you’re discussing & then your reply. So, you did a brief description of what the subject was in reference to & then you gave your reply. It also gave busy, important executives the opportunity to read what you wanted to discuss so they could decide when to read your letter. Once the internet came into vogue, it continuedbeing used as “Reply”/“Regarding”.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I remember it as being “in re” – like “in re: the sale of your ownership stake in the corporation”. but that may be more of a legal construction of the same general use of ‘re:’.

LadyMarissa's avatar

@elbanditoroso That was the same thing in legalese!!!

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