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“Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.”
—Daniel J. Boorstin (1914–2004), American historian
Teaching email etiquette in the classroom remains an essential challenge for English teachers. We must prepare English language learners for the professional world. Last week, we discussed how to write a clear, concise subject line, and reviewed appropriate methods of greeting teachers and professors.
But what about the actual email? What advice should we share with our English students? Let’s stick to the principles of effective communication: keep it accurate, brief, and clear.
Greet the reader.
Setting the tone with a greeting goes a long way. Beginning with a request outright may seem rude, so first wish the recipient well.
- I hope this email finds you well
- I hope all is well with you..
Second, the sender should introduce themselves if necessary by including their full name, class and meeting time. The instructor may have a large class or may teach multiple sections of the same class.
Third, students should state the purpose of the email. For example:
- My name is Hào Nguyễn from your 10:00 a.m. class. I’m contacting you about my absence yesterday.
- This is Hào Nguyễn from Oral Language class. I am writing about the test we took last week. Can I schedule an office visit to discuss my score?
Write the actual message.
Emphasize to the class to focus on the main point of the message. Going on and on and on and on doesn’t address your concern any quicker. English teachers and professional tutors often have to read many emails each day, so getting swiftly and politely to the point is best. “Please” and “thank you” should be used to show respect. Advise your students to never send emails while angry to maintain professionality and composure.
Formatting the message into short paragraphs by topics makes the message easier to understand; inserting a line space between paragraphs or, alternatively, indenting them, is clean and efficient. Last but not least, informal writing (e.g. I don’t wanna miss your class but…), slang words, and emoticons should be avoided.
Use an appropriate closing.
Endings matter! Guide your English language learners toward simple, polite closing sentiments like “Thank you for your time and consideration,” or “Have a great afternoon.”
Sample Activity: Have your students put a check next to each of the appropriate closings to use to your teacher
____Thinking of you,
____See you in class,
____Dreaming of you,
____Hugs and kisses,
____ That’s all
Sign with your full name.
Additionally, the school and/or major of the sender may be necessary. Emoticons should be, once again, strictly avoided. Stress to your students that they are future professionals. Read some common mistakes that other college students make in signing their emails.
Signatures to avoid:
1. Hào Nguyễn :)
2. Hào Nguyễn ^^
3. Hào Nguyễn (^^)”
Grammar and spellcheck.
Emphasize the importance of proofreading for spelling and grammar mistakes.
Sample Activity: Have your students write a professional email to you or another instructor, and send it before the next class.
Do you teach email etiquette in your English classroom? What are your do’s and taboos for student emails? Please share your best tips on teaching email etiquette!