Writing a Subject Line in Formal Letters

Writing a subject in a formal letter is not as complex as you imagined.

What is the Subject Line in Formal Letters?

Generally, a subject in a formal letter is used to describe its purpose. The recipient can understand what the letter is about by reading its subject line.

The reader doesn’t have to read the entire letter. You must keep in mind when you write a business letter, people don’t have that much time, and they will just skim the letter. This is when the subject becomes useful.

One can clearly see what the letter refers to just by reading the subject.

The purpose of subject lines in business correspondence is to prepare the reader for what’s in the letter or email. Also, to emphasize importance and urgency and facilitate the process of reorienting correspondence.

While most business communications aren’t urgent, some of them are. In such cases, a subject that begins with “Urgent” alerts the reader to the necessity of a prompt response.

Imagine if a written correspondence has not received a response. In this case, the writer might include the subject “Second Email: Please respond” to capture the recipient’s attention.

Subject lines allow recipients to direct their correspondence to someone in their organization who is more competent to assist you. This applies to both email and hard copy letters.

Can You Write a Formal Letter Without a Subject?

Business professionals think that subjects are unnecessary. Yes, they are optional, but they can be helpful in business letters by facilitating easy and safe communication through a subject.

Many out there consider this part of a business letter optional. On the other hand, many people point out that it is the most important part of a formal letter.

Let’s say the letter is too short, and the receiver is able to read it immediately. In this case, you may not need a subject. If you want to add a subject line, it is fine. However, if the letter is long and contains details of any issue, you should write a subject.

Difference Between American & British English

Subject lines are usually found between the salutation and the body of a letter in British English. It may also be written earlier than the greeting in some cases.

It is common for American English to have the subject before saluting the subject. Frequently, the phrase ‘Subject’ or ‘RE’ (‘Reference’ or Regarding’) is written at the beginning of the line.

How to Write a Subject in a Formal Letter?

The format and structure of a formal letter are as follows:

  • Address of the Sender
  • Date of Writing
  • Recipient’s Address and Full Name
  • Salutation
  • Subject
  • Main Body
  • Closing Paragraph
  • Signature (With the Sender’s full name)

The subject should not be a whole sentence. Rather, it should relay the essence of the letter in 5-6 words. Don’t write subjects longer than seven words. Writing long subjects defeats its purpose.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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