English Composition I

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Etiquette for online communication in college-level courses

In online study, most of your presentation out of yourself as a student is in the written form. As such, you want to present yourself in the most positive light possible. The following guidelines will help you do so.
Diction, meaning word choices:
  • Formal: Remember that any communication you have with your instructor as well as with your classmates in assigned group work should be formal unless otherwise instructed in any given course or assignment. Your work in a college-level classroom is a professional endeavor. What does formal communication mean? Here are some fundamental tips:


  •  Messaging the instructor: When messaging through Canvas or emailing your instructor, make sure to identify yourself (as a signoff is fine) and included greeting to your instructor (Hello, Good Morning, Hi Professor– all fine). Each email does not have to be structured as a formal business letter or anything, but you do want keep in mind that your communication with your professor is a professional one.


  • Use complete words and complete sentences. Professional communication does not utilize the same tools as does texting or interaction in various forms of social media which you may be accustomed to. Your communication in academia (which online courses are) should utilize complete words (your not ur, thanks not thx, etc…). Also, use complete sentences, as doing so will increase the probability that your professor will understand what you mean and be able to address your needs accordingly.


Tone, meaning the writer's attitude in the writing:

  • Keep an appropriate tone in all communication: Tone is an important factor in communicating online, as in person, we can establish our tone through the sound of our voices, the expression on our faces, body language, etc.… Online written communication does not provide all of these tools. While I feel like this piece of advice should be a given, experience has shown me that I should mention that swearing is not contained within appropriate formal diction.
  • The most important piece of advice I can offer about tone in online communication is regarding emotional communication. If you are angry, frustrated, confused, irritated, etc…, do not send an email or message based on those emotions. If you need to write an email in the heat of these emotions, do not send it right away.
  • Always practice the 24-hour rule: If you know that you are in the state of any of these emotions and need to write the email/message in that moment, doing so may help you process what you’re feeling, which is great; however, what is not great if shooting off that angry email while you are still angry. Hold any message written out of emotion for 24 hours and reread it to see if that is really how you want to present yourself to your professor.
  • Your best strategy if you are feeling confused, irritated, etc… is to identify the cause of those feelings and ask your professor specific questions which s/he can answer to resolve the issues causing those emotions.


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