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No register! Using punctuation, modality and phraseology to teach email Alistair McNair English Language Tutor.

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Presentation on theme: "No register! Using punctuation, modality and phraseology to teach email Alistair McNair English Language Tutor."— Presentation transcript:

1 No register! Using punctuation, modality and phraseology to teach email Alistair McNair English Language Tutor

2 Student emails Is teaching of email important? What makes email difficult to write? Context of study Systemic functional grammar Analysis of email length, openings, closings, punctuation, modality, phrases How can we teach email? Conclusions Outline

3 I'm so sorry. I forgot check the mail again. I wii come to see you next week. Hello sir. You dont stay in Sheffield at this moment?I would like to see you..because i have something want to discuss HI I am so sorry about missing you an appiontment.because I have to go to manchester with my friends. Student emails

4 Most work places and education environments use email. Email helps learners interact with other people and build relationships using a variety of function e.g. requests; advice; demands Impressions of student ability can be based on writing in emails Email could provide a means of improving proofreading skills Is teaching email important?

5 Email is a strange blend of writing and talking (Naughton 2002: 143). Louhiala-Salminen concurs: the conventions of business letters are well-established, those of fax, and in particular email, are not as stabilized. Therefore one finds more variation in the language used in faxes and emails. (1999 cited in Koester 2004: 34) What makes email difficult for students to write (and difficult for teachers to teach)?

6 Danet (2002) raises the issue of style leakage (ibid.: 24), that is writers write email in the style they have first or most frequently encountered e.g. academics write email in a more business-like fashion, and the students in a more conversational style. public or business email practice was drifting towards [a] more oral style…than traditional letter-writing (ibid.: 11) What makes email difficult for students to write (and difficult for teachers to teach)?

7 Baron (2001) might agree with Danets argument, but explains it from a longitudinal perspective, and sees the informality of email, in her opinion, as a result of the loss of public face (ibid.: 8): OK NAOMI…if you know something…tell me Baron points out that this candour may be lessening as email increasingly emulates pen-and-paper formats and people realize that real people are reading their messages (ibid.). What makes email difficult for students to write (and difficult for teachers to teach)?

8 there is no real accepted style for writing emails, No difference between letters and emails. English language course books provide good examples of emails Emails in course books are too generalized. Teacher opinions

9 Hiya - he's the one we don't have the certificate for, unfortunately! C…….'s chasing but we're unlikely to have it very soon unless T……….. gets back or we get through to the (currently ringing off) IELTS test centre. Sorry! P……. Hallo, Found this and will add to shared drive. Anything else needed? Presumably a guide as to how to make an appeal or regulations..etc..?! A………., Would it be possible to let students have copies of some of the student's posters as models? Or would we need to get permission? Regards, C……… Emails from a college

10 Market Leader Pre-Intermediate Market Leader Intermediate Market Leader Upper Intermediate Business Benchmark Pre-Intermediate Business Benchmark Upper-Intermediate Semi- formal Informal Semi- formal Informal Semi- formal Informal Formal Informal Internal Sender Internal Reply Dear Hi Hello Name only Apostrophes Exclamations Abbreviations Best wishes Regards Thanks First name Both names Emails in Business English Course Books

11 Market Leader Intermediate 2010 Language Leader Intermediate 2010 Language Leader Upper Intermediate 2010 First Certificate Expert 2010 InternalExternalInformalFormalInformalFormalInformalFormal Dear Hi Name only Apostrophes Exclamations Yours sincerely Best wishes Best Love Nothing First name Both names Can Will Would

12 Two sample emails Tom Just to confirm that we will be able to attend the meeting next Friday. Ill be with our Sales Director, Mary Fowler. Harry (Cotton et al, 2010, p.127) Dear Louise Got your email on Friday. Thank you for the invitation. Sorry, but I cant make it as we have a teambuilding seminar that weekend. Please let Mark know about the new products. Please feel free to call/mail me again if you need any more help. Speak to you soon Denise (Cotton et al, 2010, p.67)

13 There are too few emails in course books. Emails in course books are too simple or too similar to traditional letters compared with emails in the work environment. Once students go to work or university they may find how to write appropriate emails challenging. Students need to realise that emails are complex and need to be appropriate for the reader. By analysing systematically types of email, punctuation, phrases and modality learners can begin to see what language is expected in emails. Thesis

14 Context of study British Council Ukraine Large organisation with over 100 staff Established in 1990s 160 emails 2 senior teachers 3 teachers 2 information assistants (Ukrainian) University of Brighton's International College Small school with around 14 staff Established since 2011 185 emails 3 managers 3 teachers 3 administrative staff

15 Although there are over 300 emails, the study only examines emails of 16 people. Email style could have been affected by individual relationships, different nationalities and genders. Unequal balance between the different occupations. English not everybodys first language Limitations of study

16 Systemic functional grammar The textual (Mode) metafunction: we organise our messages in ways that indicate how they fit in with other messages around them (Thomson 2004: 30). The interpersonal (Tenor) metafunction: to interact with other people, to establish and maintain relations with them (ibid.: 30) The experiential (Field) metafunction: talk about our experience of the world [and] to describe events and states and the entities involved in them (ibid.: 30).

17 Mode: length, openings and closings Tenor: punctuation and modality Field: types of email and phraseology Features of email examined in this study






23 Tenor: punctuation Dear G………….., So far I have not used CEF for purposes of assessment. I wasnt sure if I absolutely had to or not. However, I plan to do so with some groups, particularly with my Advanced group who have specified that they dont want a test. Some (such as my level 6 group) have said they want a test, so I may have to do both. Best regards, B………….






29 Gains: in commercial use…e-mail messages are heavily employed to disseminate information (45%) and to make requests (32%) (ibid.), while 11% were directives. Gimenez (2000: 240): 51 out of 63 messageswere sent to either request or provide information. In the British Council Ukraine 89.1% of all the emails were either informative, requestive or both. Field: types of email

30 Please find attached the supplementary questionnaire you requested. Could you please return it to me by next Wednesday?


32 Information Assistants TeachersManagers Could you please confirm Could you please remind who of Could you please meet tomorrow Could you please let me know if Could you please let us know Regarding the flight to Rome, please do not book it for Monday If it is possible, can we go by train? Perhaps we should try train tickets? Im not sure if its too late, but I wouldnt mind Please order the key from FOS Can you pleas check if there is Please print out this job offer Can you please translate this message Please reserve a place for Please write your self-assessments Please call the waiting list of young learners Field: phrases (British Council Ukraine)

33 AdministrationTeachersManagers Is this still on? Did sales ever chase this for us? Anything else needed? Can you advise on this? Can you make it look good What do you think? I wonder if you know off the top of your head Would you be able to confirm by the end of today Just wondering if you had any materials Can I book room 303 on Friday…please? Can we have a word about her Could you also have a look at Did you do the ER training Please could you complete the attached Would you please drop me an email Did you get a name and if so could you Field: phrases: (Brighton)

34 Use your own emails to elicit features of email English, phrases and punctuation. Students compare your or colleagues emails with emails in course books. Encourage learners to use email as part of their learning process e.g. sending homework by email; writing emails to each other. Respond to learners by email. Ask learners to look at sample learner email to elicit mistakes. How can email be taught?

35 Between 75% and 89% of emails are 4 lines long or shorter Openings and closings are much more varied than course books and previous research suggests. Most frequent types of email are informative and requestive or a mixture of both At the British Council Ukraine, each work position uses punctuation and modality very carefully, but differently, to maintain face: managers use can; information assistants use could Summary of findings

36 At University of Brightons International College, administration tend to ask short, direct questions Teachers use most complex, cautious language when asking questions in both schools Summary of findings

37 Conclusions Emails in course books are much simpler than in practice Emails can be simplified by examining punctuation, modality and phraseology By providing learners with a context, they can begin to understand why emails are written as they are

38 Thank you for listening! Any questions?

39 Baron, Naomi, S. (2000) Alphabet to email London: Routledge. Baron, Naomi, S. (2001) Why email looks like speech: Proofreading, Pedagogy and Public Face. Paper presented at Language, the Media, and International Communication St. Catherines College, Oxford. (Last accessed 2 March 2009) Bell, J., Gower, R. (2010) First Certificate Expert Harlow: Longman Brooke-Hart, Guy (2006) Business Benchmark Upper-Intermediate Bec Vantage Cambridge: CUP.69 Cotton, D., Falvey, D. and Kent, S. (2001) Market Leader Upper Intermediate Harlow: Longman. Cotton, D., Falvey, D. and Kent, S. (2005) Market Leader Intermediate Business English Course Book Harlow: Longman. Cotton, D., Falvey, D. and Kent, S. (2007) Market Leader Pre-Intermediate Harlow: Longman. Cotton, D., Falvey, D. and Kent, S. (2010) Market Leader Intermediate 3 rd Edition Harlow: Longman. Cotton, D., Falvey, D., Kent, S. (2010) Language Leader Intermediate Harlow: Longman Cotton, D., Falvey, D., Kent, S. (2010) Language Leader Upper Intermediate Harlow: Longman Danet, Brenda (2002) The Language of Email. Paper given at European Union Summer School, University of Rome, June 2002, Lecture II. l.pdf (Last accessed 2 March 2009). l.pdf Dubicka, Iwonna and OKeeffe, Margaret (2006a) Market Leader Advanced Business English Course Book Harlow: Longman. Dubicka, Iwonna and OKeeffe, Margaret (2006b) Market Leader Advanced Business English Teachers Resource Book Harlow: Longman. Gains, Jonathan (1999) Electronic Mail – A New Style of Communication or Just a New Medium?: An Investigation into the text features of E-mail. In English for Specific Purposes 1999 Vol.18 No.1 81-101. References

40 Gimenez, Julio, C. (2000) Business e-mail communication: some emerging tendencies in register. In English for Specific Purposes 19 (2000) 237-251. Koester, Almut (2004) The Language of Work Abingdon: Routledge. Louhiala-Salminen, L. (1999) From business correspondence to message exchange: what is left? In Hewings, M and Nickerson, C (Eds) Business English: Research into Practice Harlow: Longman 100-114. Naughton, John (2002) A Brief History of the Future: The Origins of the Internet London: Phoenix. Thompson, Geoff (2004) Introducing Functional Grammar London: Arnold. Whitby, Norman (2006) Business Benchmark Pre-Intermediate – Intermediate Cambridge: CUP. References

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