[Portions of this information were modified for EFL students with permission from the article, "A Beginner's Guide to Effective e-mail," by Kaitlin Duck Sherwood.]
Electronic communication, because of its speed and broadcasting ability, is different from paper-based communication. Because the exchange of messages can be so fast, e-mail is more conversational than traditional letters.
In a letter, it is very important to make everything completely clear because your the other person may not have a chance to ask questions, or their native language might the same as your own. With e-mail documents, the other person can ask questions immediately. E-mail thus, like conversational speech, is not as formal and neat as communications on paper.
This is not always bad. It makes little sense to work over a message for hours, making sure that your spelling is perfect, your words beautiful, and your grammar excellent, if you just trying to tell your co-worker that you are ready to go to lunch. Just remember that messages are usually shorter and to the point.
However, since you can't see the other person and don't know his or her status, you need to know when you can be sloppy and when you have to be very careful when writing messages.
In E-mail messages, it is very difficult to express emotions nearly as well as a face-to-face or even telephone conversation. It lacks intonation, gestures, and a shared environment. Your correspondent might have difficulty telling if you are serious or just joking, happy or sad, or frustrated. Sarcasm is particularly dangerous to use in e-mail.
In this lesson, you will learn how to write appropriate messages using this new method of communication.
Here is what the "compose" or new message screen looks like in Hotmail:
Here are several basic steps to composing a message:
There are ways to make your messages clearer and more meaningful:
QuotingLet's say a classmate sends you this message:
The question Karl must answer is what kind of computer does he have. When pressing on the reply button, you should include only the part that refers to his question. The rest of the message is not needed and only makes the message harder to read.
Therefore, Karls' reply should look something like this:
Often, in informal messages, you don't need to include the other person's name, but it's best in formal situations. It would look like this:
EmphasizingThe most difficult thing to show in e-mail is emotion. People often get in trouble for typing exactly what they would say out loud. Unfortunately, without the tone of voice to signal their emotion, it is easy to misinterpret their true meaning.
While you cannot make your voice higher or lower, louder or softer to express emphasis, there are things you can do with text to express your feelings.
Light EmphasisIf you want to give something mild emphasis, you should enclose it in asterisks (*).
I said that I was going last Thursday.Say:
I *said* that I was going last Thursday.Or:
I said that I was going last *Thursday*.You can also capitalize the first letter only of words to give light emphasis:
I told my brother that I would be at School, but I think he forgot.
Strong EmphasisIf you want to indicate stronger emphasis, use all capital letters and/or use some extra exclamation marks. Instead of:
> Should I tell mom about the accident?Say:
> Should I tell mom about the accident?Remember, however, that you should use capital letters too much or it will look like you are "shouting."
It is totally inappropriate to use all capital letters in a situation where you are calm. Don't type this:
HEY, I JUST WANTED TO KNOW IF YOU HAD FINISHED THE HOMEWORK.People do not like these kind of "shouting messages."
>>EXTREME!!<< EmphasisIf you really want to emphasize something, you can write it like this:
If you ever call me again, I will never, *never*, *NEVER*, >>!!**NEVER**!!<< talk to you again.Again, don't use this except in extreme cases . . . which are few.
Pause EquivalentsImagine that you ask a girl out on a date. She then says, "Well", and pauses for a long time, scratches her head, looks down at the floor, and says again, "Well", then pauses again. To write similar pauses by using creative spelling. Her answer might look like this:
Welllllll . . . . uhhhh, you see, ummm . . . I'm busy that evening.
Not only does text lack the emotional signals that vocal inflection gives, it lacks cues from body language. There is no twinkling of the eyes to say you are kidding, no hitting the desk with your hand to show frustration or anger, and no shoulders slumping to display discouragement.
While you are unable to accompany your words with hand or facial gestures, there are several ways to describe body language. These are called "smilies."
A facial expression or emotion can be represented with what is called a "smiley" or "emoticon": a textual drawing of a facial expression.