With as many different forms of communication as there are available to us today, you wouldn’t think communication would be a problem for college students. OMG! Well, it’s not so much of a problem for college students, as it is a problem for those of us who communicate with college students! LOL! With the ubiquity of smart phones and other electronic communication devices, it’s no longer reaching them that’s difficult, it’s determining who they are, what they mean, and how to help them.
Most of us have probably either heard someone lament the deterioration of the English language, or complained about it ourselves. Although I do agree there has been deterioration, what I’m writing about today is the need for college students to be a little more formal in their communication with college faculty and staff they interact with, particularly electronically. I’m not talking about using sir and ma’am or please and thank you, although more pleases would be cool!
Students, I’m not trying to get you to prepare formal letters, or suggest you refrain from using IM’s or text messages or even e-mail for that matter, with those of us who work at colleges (note that earlier, I used lol and omg to show how current and hip I am!). I just want to remind you that all of the abbreviations, made-up words, slang, lack of punctuation, sarcasm, run-on sentences, and things like Napoleon Dynamite references used in IM’s and text messages can be hard to follow for us old folks. You just need to give more information and be a little more formal when you don’t know the message recipient (or they don’t know you) very well. Oh, and we don’t know everyone by their vanity e-mail addresses and screen names…
It’s fairly common for university employees to receive e-mail messages like the following:
“Lance, I’ve decided to take your advice! Go ahead and change my major. Steve”
“Bonnie, I’ve tried to log in seven times, and it just won’t work. What do I do? Susan”
To Steve’s message, I would ask, Steve who?, What major?, and Did I really tell you to change your major?, and then I’d reply back with how HE could change his major himself. To Susan’s message, Bonnie might ask What’s your full name and ID number?, What are you trying to log into?, What page were you on?, What message did the computer give you?, and What have you done to try and fix the problem?
If you’re asking the IT department for help solving a computer problem, you should be clear and specific. If you’re asking your advisor if they went to the big game, you can be informal and loose. Keep in mind the context and the recipient of the message.
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