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Dr. Mark Jordan ~ ENGL 2311: Technical Writing

Things to Know about Email

General Comments
  • In this course, our email communication is the main way we will communicate. With this in mind, you must have your own email account and you should check it preferably every day, or at least every other day. Beware of the danger of failing to check your email or the website for days or weeks at a time because there is no set time for "class." Besides the personal email messages you generate using your own account, you will also, from time to time, be asked to participate in electronic class conferences on Nicenet.
  • Please do not type in all caps, either in your email or your papers (especially not in your papers, except possibly in titles or subheadings!). Typing in all caps is the print equivalent of shouting in someone's face, and personally I don't care for it. It also makes lines harder to read because all the letters are the same height and tend to run together to the eye.
  • For this course, although there may be occasion to send certain documents as attached files, the major assignments, including most drafts, must be surface-mailed. File attachment works slightly differently on different hardware and communication software, so you should be knowledgeable about how to do this on your system, should the need arise. If in fact you do gain my approval for sending an assignment as a file attachment, I will accept only files sent in the RTF format (Rich Text Format) or perhaps some similar universal-language format. My reason for this is that it is much more difficult to unintentionally send a file infected with a virus if that file is sent as an RTF file.
  • Please try at all costs to avoid changing email addresses during this course. That becomes very confusing to me, since I am communicating with perhaps several dozen students, and may well result in you not receiving my messages. Similarly, please try to avoid using more than one existing email address, if you have several. At the least, if you do send from several addresses, you are obligated to check each one every other day, at minimum, because I respond to messages simply by hitting the "reply" button, which automatically responds to the address the email was sent from. If that address is not your usual one, you may miss my response.
  • It is the student's responsibility to get in touch with me by phone or whatever means necessary if your email "bounces back," as occasionally happens.m However, in most cases if you will try re-sending the message at least once, no phone call is needed.
    Email Etiquette

Here are notes on various more subtle aspects of using email in this course.

First, communicating through email is different than speaking to another person, or even writing a letter or note to another person. Because you are not actually facing your "listener" and because of the lack of clues to intended meaning which are provided by facial expression, tone of voice, and body language, electronic dialogue can easily lead to impoliteness and insensitivity, or may be interpreted as rude even if that was not your intent. Yet unlike traditional written communication, email often happens at a fast pace and uses a less formal tone--features which are more like oral speech than writing. The partial anonymity, the lack of clues to meaning, the informal tone, and the fast pace all combine to create a context which sometimes invites discourtesy and anger, sometimes referred to as "flaming."

So be mindful. Since email lacks facial expressions and tones of voice, a reader may take your words seriously when you are actually teasing or joking. Many of you may be aware of symbols (called emoticons or smileys) that may serve to indicate your tone of voice. For example, :) shows a smiley face when looked at sideways, and indicates a humorous tone. It's made with a colon followed by a parenthesis mark. Similarly, ;) is made with a semicolon instead of a colon, and is generally taken as a wink and a smile. While I don't necessarily object to the use of emoticons, on the other hand a capable writer should be able to project tone without them, and should try to do so when emailing to someone who is not well known to the writer. "Smileys" do not convey a very formal tone.

An informal tone is what I often use myself in email--less formal at least than a typed business letter--but on the other hand, keep in mind that your email messages in this class are, in essence, similar to electronic memos sent from office to office within a company. So while email for this course is acceptably less formal than a business letter, neither should it be quite so informal as conversation with a friend. Express yourself with courtesy and politeness, even if that is not the custom in Internet chat rooms that you may have experienced. If anyone is being bothered by rude or insensitive email from anyone in class let me know immediately.

Lastly, you should pay more attention to grammar, punctuation, and spelling than you may be accustomed to doing in email among close friends or in live chat rooms. Again, remember that email in this course is similar to inter-office memos: less formal than business letters, but more formal than chat.

Email Addressing Protocols
  • Always put something brief but descriptive in the subject line. If it's an assignment, put something like "Paper3" (without the quotation marks).
  • Something other than your real name may appear on the automatic return address which email messages carry. If that is so, please include your real name at the end of the message, at least until I get to know everyone. 
  • Because various communication softwares use slightly different formats, I will not require class members to use a uniform email memo format. However, many companies prefer that their employees all use the same format, and of course many memos are still done in hardcopy rather than as email. There are a fairly small number of variations in standard hardcopy memo format; the customary format may be taught by occasionally asking you for hardcopy memos, which should be faxed to me.

Welcome ~ Getting Started ~ Policies ~ Syllabus ~ Nicenet ~ Email ~

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