Email: Courtesy Vs. Efficiency. Please, help me with my feelings.

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Dear Reader,

I am interested in hearing from people who use email in all sorts of capacities–business, education, social, other stuff that I can’t think of right now …

When a student sends me an email like this …

“Why did I get a 93 on my book review?”

(No opening, no closing, just a question demanding answers moments after posting a grade online … I don’t even want to talk about online grading or grades in general … that is a completely different conversation … )

… do you think it would be good to teach that student (or maybe a mini-lesson in class because it’s not just one student who does this. It’s probably about half and half) about greetings and closings for written correspondence?


Am I just projecting my need for the niceties of written communication on my students?

If the student had written,

“Dear Mrs. M, I noticed that I scored a 93% on my book review. I was wondering if we could talk about how I earned that grade. Thank you, Your Student.”

Then I had responded with,

“Hello My Student,

Let’s talk about this in class after break.

Take care,

Mrs. M.”

And then the student responded with “Sounds good,” (sans greeting/closing) I wouldn’t bristle because at that point, it would be more of a conversation rather than a formal exchange … But the demanding email with no courtesies bothers me.

Do I need to get with the times, or is it still expected that when you’re reaching out to someone in the digital realm that you are writing a “letter” so to speak? Or is courtesy giving way to efficiency?

I realize that if this student was sending an email to a friend, it would be more acceptable to just come out with a question like this … but most likely this student wouldn’t email a friend. This student would text a friend, and the email this student sent was very texty in nature.

Tone is a problem in all written correspondence. As a Facebook friend pointed out, a student who sends an email like the one I opened this post with probably meant no harm. This student was probably sincerely trying to figure out how this grade came to be, but without the greeting and closing, the tone could easily be misinterpreted.

On the other hand, if a colleague sent me a question in the middle of the day like “Do you want to go to lunch?” or “The meeting started. Are you coming?” this wouldn’t bother me. Why?



Jodie M.

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