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Subject Headings

Aim:
This page is to help you write correct subject headings for business documents.

Guidelines:
The purpose of a subject heading is to tell the reader:

  • what the document is for (the purpose of the document), and
  • what it is about (the topic of the document)

e.g. in Complaint about Late Delivery of Order 12345, the subject heading tells the reader that the purpose of the document is to complain, and that the topic is Order 12345.

Purposes:
Business documents can have many purposes. In a subject heading these are written as nouns. Here are some examples, with the usual prepositions that go with them:

  • Complaint about ( + problem)
  • Apology for ( + problem)
  • Information on ( + topic)
  • Warning about ( + danger)
  • Report on ( + topic)
  • Investigation into ( + topic)
  • Proposal to (+ verb phrase; e.g. to Reduce Waste)
  • Proposal for (+ noun phrase; e.g. for Waste Reduction)
  • Congratulations to ( + a person who has done well)
  • Congratulations from ( + a person sending the message)
  • Congratulations on (+ a topic; e.g. Passing your Exams)
  • Request for (+ a noun phrase; e.g. a Day's Leave)
  • Request to (+ a verb; e.g. to Miss a Lesson)
  • Application for ( + a noun phrase; e.g. a License)
  • Application to (+ a verb; e.g. Use the Company Junk)

 

If the purpose of the document is to inform the reader, the purpose is often missed out, and the most important information is used; e.g. Late Arrival of Order 12345, or Estimated Time of Arrival of Order 12345.

Content
Subject headings should not be too general; e.g. Improvement in our services and Reply to your letter are not specific enough.

Also, if the subject heading concerns an order, for example Order 12345, it should be more specific; e.g. Arrival Date of Order 12345.

Formatting
Subject headings should be highlighted in some way. This can be by using:

  • Bold Font,
  • Larger Writing
  • Underlined Writing, or,
  • less commonly, Italics.

NOTE: DO NOT USE ALL CAPITAL LETTERS BECAUSE IT LOOKS UGLY AND IS HARD TO READ.

You can use Re: before a  subject heading, but it is not necessary if the heading is highlighted in some other way. Do not underline Re:

Do not put a full stop at the end of subject headings.

Title Case
Subject headings should be in title case. This means that the first letter of the first word should have an upper-case letter, and so should all the other words, except for articles and prepositions; e.g. Complaint about the Late Delivery of Order Number 12345

Exercise
Instructions:
Correct the following subject headings:

1.  

The tip and answer will appear here.

 

2.  

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3.  

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4.  

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5.  

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6.  

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7.  

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8.

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9.  

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10.  

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Your score is

 

Last updated on: Monday, March 26, 2012