In this post on the TESOL International blog Elena Svidko addresses something that I think we’ve all received from our students at some point: inappropriately informal e-mails. Who hasn’t received e-mails from their students with no greeting or closing, no name, written in textspeak and full of demands in the imperative instead of requests using the conditional?
I agree with her completely in her observation that this has little to do with linguistic ability and more to do with familiarity of the conventions of this text genre. I, like her, also take a genre approach to teaching e-mailing within the first weeks of any course I teach, discussing the purpose and social context of the genre of the (semi-)formal email, and looking at commonalities of structure/organization and language in models of this genre.
In a genre approach, depending on what genre is being studied, finding opportunities for students to move on to practice and produce a genre under real-life conditions can sometimes be challenging. But in this particular case, students so frequently have to e-mail their instructors, TAs and other university officials that real-life contexts for writing practice abound. Similarly, any instructor has an inbox full of ideal and less-than-ideal specimens of (semi-)formal emails from which to choose when compiling models to bring into class.
This blog post has breaks down the key stages of the genre approach in a way that can be applied to a variety of contexts.
(photo by @vmorgana via ELTPics)