Examples of Poor Email

by Dr Davis on July 26, 2009

I am collecting a few examples of poor emails for rhetorical analysis in freshman composition.

Ms. W!!!!

Wazzup? girl tell me what we have to do for Friday bcuz I take 3 claeses and wrk 15 hrs/wk and I dont have time 2 git to a comupter to look n e thing up I rlly like your cls bcuz your funny well let me know cuz im a rlly gd stdt and need a A in you’re cls.

[no signature]

By a male student to his female professor.

email-from-phone1I can think of several things we could say about that email.

Some issues to consider:
spelling
language
word choice
student’s identification
class student is discussing
blaming

Mr. XXX,
Why did you give me an F? I attended most of the classes and at least tried to understand the materials. I think I deserved at least a passing grade. I studied hard for the exam in hopes that I would at least pass the class. Now I am behind another 2 semesters because I have to retake this class and then take Managerial Acct. Can you please reconsider? Hope to hear from you soon.
Thanks,
George

from Chrisqbn.

I Submitted my papewr on time, but I forgot to check the in text citation and submitted a copy with them all messed up, anyway I resubmitted it today to fix this, but i know that’ late, so just letting you know the paper part was in on time, but the in text citation was not.

It’s not the content or the standard refusal-to-be-literate-in-emails errors that make this a classic, it’s that the subject line said: “hey teach!”

Chronicle forum, siduri

pooh-and-piglet-thinkThe phrase “please reply as soon as possible” was noted as not being very audience aware. However, it was also noted as common in business in a CYA sort of offering. So what should I teach my students to do?

Think. Think. Think.

Dear Dr. mendeddrum,

You don’t actually know me, but my boyfriend, StudentX, is in your CourseY. I would just like to apologize for the fact that he was not in class on Monday. He did something really schetchy this weekend and I sort of punched him in the face. He was too embarassed to come to class with the black eye, and it was my fault–although if he hadn’t done it neither would I–and I’m sure he’ll be in class on Friday.

Really sincerely,
Girlfriend

Please note that the problem is not the salutation. The student in particular is identified clearly. What is the problem with mended drum’s student’s email?

what’s up sherry
i left my test in the back of the classroom. i was hoping you could pick it up and give me comments on it and also maybe make a study schedule for me so i know how to improve.
i know ur busy so thanks

Alas, some student had to write that.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Linda Aragoni 07.30.09 at 7:21 am

Can you do a rhetorical analysis of my all-time favorite student email? It read: “Help. I don’t know what to do. I’m toadly confussed.”

All frivolity aside, your posts about email use got me thinking. Most state education standards contain an item about adapting to writing situations. Surely email and social media provide relevant applications for discussion of what’s appropriate.

Thanks for the posts. As always, you stretch my thinking.

Linda Aragoni

2 Dr Davis 07.30.09 at 3:41 pm

I think the student doesn’t know what to do and doesn’t even know how to ask. And the student forgot to use spellcheck!

I think the view of audience is of an omniscient teacher who will understand exactly what s/he is talking about and will do anything at all to get the student going in the right direction.

And thanks for the encouragement on the blog posts. I appreciate that.

3 Linda Aragoni 08.04.09 at 7:17 am

I’m not sure students see teachers as omniscient, although I’d like to believe that is the case. (I’d like to believe I’m omniscient!) I think it’s more that students are insular. I’m sure you’ve heard the “all my friends think I’m a great writer” line.

For all our access to technology and social media, it seems to me people are getting progressively more narrow. Thanks to technology, the person with a passion for widgets can associate only with people with a passion for widgets. S/he doesn’t even have meet people who don’t know what widgets are.

Now I must go tend my widgets.

4 Elizabeth JP 12.11.13 at 11:07 am

Thank you so much for your examples. I teach many college composition classes, and I have to incorporate the basics of business writing as well as the normal composition topics. These e-mails are a fantastic way of connecting with my students and opening their eyes up to the very mistakes many of them have already made!

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