by Richard Capone
If you are reading this article, then undoubtedly you are a person who is using the Internet on a regular basis to gain information for business and personal reasons. Furthermore, you probably use email continually for communications with friends, family, and colleagues. But did you ever stop to think that email may be a new genre of writing? If this is the case, then it probably deserves to be taught in secondary school as an essential writing category. Not doing so could put teenagers and young adults at a disadvantage.
Below are my recommendations for how I would teach an email-writing course. I would break it into three main categories, outlined below.
Area one is the obvious “netiquette,” which is the term for email etiquette. We have all seen those inappropriate emails when someone “replies to all” instead of just to the sender. Or how about those LONG emails that just won’t end? So this area would focus on some common sense logistics that need to be followed in order to avoid disasters and make your emails more effective.
Area two is clarifying the language rules of email writing. For example, email writing should not be confused with instant messaging or texting. While most adults are transitioning to email writing from business writing, most young people will be transitioning from instant messaging to email. When I see an email with “cus,” “ur,” or “u,” I cringe! So this area will cover the fact that regular grammar rules apply to business email communication, as well as a whole slew of other rules.
Area three is teaching email voice. In my business communications, I have been shocked to discover that some people read every email (at least from me) in a confrontational voice. For these people, whom I call “email angry” people, I add extra language to make them realize that I am not actually angry. Perhaps it is because they misinterpret my short, concise emails as being abrupt and rude? In a few extreme cases, I have consciously decided to refrain from email altogether; instead, I pick up the phone and call these people. My hope is that by teaching email voice, fewer people will misinterpret email tone and more people will write emails whose tone will likely be interpreted accurately.
On a final note--since I am, after all, the CEO of an assessment company--I think I am going to have to add a new assessment to our future product list: DOESA. It will stand for Diagnostic Online Email Skills Assessment. We would have three sub-tests: Netiquette, Language, and Voice. My personal favorite diagnosis will be what we can extract via miscue analysis from the “Voice” sub-test. Depending on the pattern of incorrect responses, I predict that we will be able to recommend anger management training, psychological evaluation, or a “good to go” diagnosis. LOL. That is IM vocabulary for “laughing out loud.” Oops--I’m crossing my genres!
P.S. In case my “voice” wasn’t coming across, I have very dry sense of humor! But I am serious about this new assessment!
Tags: writing genre, email writing, email business writing, email assessment