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Proper Use of the Subject Line

2021 Note: This info is dated, but it has been left in place for anyone who might enjoy a throwback to early days of the internet. :)

When you fill out the Subject line of messages you post to the CONTINUUM list, it serves two primary purposes: (1) to indicate to subscribers, at a glance, what the message is about and (2) to help subscribers follow a specific topic.

For example, let's say that a subscriber named Jane wants to post a question about applying the Continuum Concept in the workplace...

INCORRECT subject: "I have a question"
                   (This could be about anything.)
*CORRECT* subject: "Applying TCC at work"
                   (Tells readers specifically what to expect.)

In general, if you are replying to a previously posted message, you should use your email program's "Reply" feature, which automatically fills out the Subject line correctly with the prefix "Re: " -- that's "R", "e", colon, and a single space -- followed by the original subject. (Some non-English email programs use an abbreviation other than "Re", such as "Sv", in which case it should be changed to "Re" manually.) This is necessary for proper message threading, described below.

Let's say someone wants to post a reply to Jane's question...

INCORRECT reply subject: "Answer to Jane's question"
INCORRECT reply subject: "My CC work experience"
*CORRECT* reply subject: "Re: Applying TCC at work"

You should also name the writer to whom you are responding and/or summarize the relevant part of the previous message at the beginning of your message (NOT in the Subject line)...

"Dear Jane..."
"In response to Jane's comment about wearing babies
in a sling while working at a computer..."

When the correct Subject and the name of the writer are known, subscribers who save recent messages can find and review the one to which you are replying. Therefore, it is not necessary to quote the previous message in your reply.


When several posts have EXACTLY the same text in the Subject line (with or without the "Re: " prefix), it's called a "thread". Most email programs can group messages by thread, allowing subscribers to read all of the posts of a particular topic without having to visually scan through all of their emails to find them. When replying, if you change the Subject line, even by one character or space, your message may be interpreted as a new thread and may be overlooked by subscribers who read posts selectively. This is why it's better to use the "Reply" command to fill out the correct Subject automatically (unless you subscribe in Digest mode, see below).


Most subscribers receive each post separately, with the list tag, [TCC], automatically prefixed to the beginning of the Subject line of every post. Two examples:

[TCC] Applying TCC at work
Re: [TCC] Applying TCC at work

Note that if "Re: " is present, it comes before the tag. The Listserv program handles the tag automatically and you should not type in the tag yourself. However, if you modify the subject line in any way, it is best to remove the [TCC] prefix. Listserv will add the tag again, when appropriate.


It is appropriate to change the Subject line of a reply when a new topic develops from an existing topic thread. In these cases, include all or part of the old Subject in parentheses at the end of the new Subject, with "was:" to indicate the change...

Babies and computers (was: Applying TCC at work)

Making sure the Subject fits the message content is also a good way to determine whether the message should even be posted to the list. If it is off-topic (not relevant to TCC) or not of general interest (e.g., "Hey, Jane, let's get together when I'm in your city next week."), it should be sent to the private address of the person to whom you are replying. Technical messages (e.g., "Why am I not receiving any posts?") should be sent to the listowner.

See also:

Updated June, 2002