Education Grammar Technology Writing Life

What The Huh?

This one comes to me from a College-Instructor-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, for reasons that shall become obvious. It is hilarious and awful all at the same time.

To: My Professor
Subject: Droped

Dear Professor:

I appologiz for not being in class the last and past week. But there is alot of stress put on me by other classes i can’t find myself a way to get to school on time for ur class. I know the matirial and everything is starting to let up. So i ask u to plez let me bake into the class. i promis to show up for the rest of the classes 🙁

Goin’ Nowhere Fast

Nice, huh.

In this horrendous wonderful day and age, where we can reach out and touch someone via text or email, college educators receive hellish quality correspondence like this all of the time.

All. Of. The. Time.

The lucky recipient of this email told me that this piece of correspondence – which arrived via email – was the first time he’d had contact with the student, and it came after his student had missed 12 out of 19 classes, two unit tests, and one quiz. 

So think about it? How would you respond to an email like this?

Is this what we have come to with all of our short-cuts and abbreviations? Do teachers at the college level have to respond to emails and texts filled with errors like this?

Do you feel sorry for the kid? I mean, he just wants “bake into the class.”

Or would you just say nothing? Because the student has already been withdrawn and, clearly, he is already fried.

I sometimes wonder if parents know that their kids are communicating with their college professors like this.  Seems we have to teach our children about how – sometimes – it is necessary to use different language to communicate to different audiences. About when it is appropriate to abbreviate and when it is necessary to use a more formal tone, proper grammar, and a spell checker. About when to use and refrain from using emoticons. According to Tim Elmore, today’s “screenagers” don’t get it. Or they get something else than us “old folks.”

Crosby, Stills and Nash sang: “Teach your children well.” Are we confusing our kids with all this “texting”? Or do teachers just need to loosen up and accept that the times  (and the language) are a-changing?

44 thoughts on “What The Huh?

  1. That’s one of those emails to which you must not pen an immediate response. Stand up, walk around, cool off, open the window for some fresh air, go outside, look at trees and flowers.
    Then sit back down and invite the student in to discuss the matter.
    Then wait to see if the student appears.

  2. My mother is a professor of literature and translation, focusing on the 15th century, and she would tell you that one of the key attributes of language is that it is not fixed. It is always changing, and has always changed. Old English, for example, is not intelligible even to people who are very clear on the rules of grammar and spelling for the English of our time unless they learn it, like a second language.

    That said, this letter is atrocious, and clearly the person writing it doesn’t know how to spell. Text-speak is for texts, not for emails.

    1. I love the fluidity of our language. I am bedazzled by its ability to change and expand, like a living entity.

      This is just plain disrespectful.

      I don;t know this kid, but I can tell you based on that great article by Tim Elmore (“Screenagers”) that email is the method of communication that teens least enjoy using, and they feel they are communicating with “old people” when they use it. They would prefer to just abbreviate and be quick about it.

      What they don’t realize is how alienating text-speak can be for the recipient.

      If someone is trying to impress you – or beg for forgiveness- he should not wear a stained shirt. This dudes shirt is filthy. I am not impressed. If he were mine, I would like respond with a “Good luck to you in your future endeavors.”

  3. I’m a hardliner when it comes to spelling being important to getting your message across. I am also horrible with both spelling and grammar.

    There are cool tools available to those of us with these afflictions. While imperfect use of spell and grammar check at all times can save us some embarrassment. Even phones correct our spelling and abbreviations so it is critical to look at what you write before you send. I still fail regularly.

    Knowing that a student below 12th grade in the U.S. doesn’t get to miss classes without repercussions. We have to accept that this is a college student. Someone that had to take and score reasonably on SATs and pass other testing. Really?

    No, students are not being confused by texting they know exactly what they are saying. They are being allowed to get by. Times can change our slang but not our language. No, teachers should not loosen up.

  4. Back when I was part of the workforce, I might have corrected improper grammar in emails and sent it back to the original emailer without responding to questions asked.

    Okay, I only did that once or twice, but I will say this: Because of my diligence, my former boss will never again implore someone to use “Southern manors” when dealing with customers. 😉

    Although, I can see how a Southern manor can impress a customer…

  5. In this day and age, I am all for second chances, but that email to the professor was not even worth a spell check. That grammar is so damaged that this student is not remotely ready for this level of learning. However, the grammar is not even what this is about. He missed most of the classes made no effort until this day to care and simply failed. My response might look like this: “There are class expectations. You have not met enought to pass. You are welcome to return to learn how to write, however you will still fail the class. If you wish to pass in the future, you will likely need a good amount of support and education with your writing skills and your motivation. If you you wish to meet in person, I can be reached at 555-5555 to for an appointment.

  6. I would ask her what she was planning to bake in class. Would she be providing her own oven? Does she know how to make chocolate chip cookies, or perhaps a really moist blondie? Would she make enough for the entire class, or just enough for you, because sharing really is a must!

    Actually, I’ve wondered how teachers, from middle school to college, have been dealing with today’s textspeak in its written form. I was one of those mean moms that didn’t enable texting on our phone plan until my kids were 18, not because I worried about their written language skills, but because I didn’t want them obsessed with their phone like a lot of teens are. They actually never begged me to get it, and now rarely use the feature.

    I think I would refer this student to the academic support center for some tutoring and urgehim/ her to try your class next semester. It seems that this student may have other problems in addition to his/her writting skills.

    1. It’s true. If he or she were a Top Chef – and prepared something spectacular – maybe the class could decide if the student should be allowed to bake him/herself back into class.

      I might worry about the whole knives thing.

      Instead of packing them, the student might get pissed and start throwing them… 😉

  7. I would have to respond with the following:

    To: My Student
    Subject: Droped

    Dear Student,

    I would welcome communication with you, however you must put forth the bare minimum of effort in order for me to understand you. Your recent communication with me has failed to impress upon me your ability to learn the subject material. Your writing skills, as shown in your recent email, are bested by four year olds. You are a college student. I assume that since you are enrolled in this post-secondary education system that you have at some point in your life passed at least through elementary school, and probably middle, and high school. Now, assuming that you have indeed passed elementary school and learned something about spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and spelling, why would you send a college professor that email? If you wish to have further communication with me via email, please ensure that your sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, and grammar are correct.


    Your Professor

  8. Hahaha! I like savessprinkles response! Too funny! I teach my kids there is a time and place, like swearing. I know, I can hear the gasps from here! We all know they swear eventually, the trick it teaching them when it’s appropriate. I can swear like a truck driver with the best of them, but switch it off in an instant. I’m not proud of it, so please don’t everyone comment back 😀 but it has taken practice. I’ve taught my children the same. It’s just a fact of life. So, it’s the same with the “texting” language. It’s about training, excuse me, I mean explaining to them when it’s appropriate. This is a parenting issue, plus Renee, it kinda of touches on your article, When is an A an A? (Was that the name of it?) Too many teachers (all the way up) let this stuff just go through without correction and we aren’t talking just little mistakes either. There comes a point where the small mistakes start to pile up (even for us normal folks) and it boarders on ignorant and that’s what’s irritating to me, especially, when there is NO reason to be. Not in this day in age with all the programs out there. IDK, call me crazy! LMAO!

  9. All. The. Time. is dead on. I usually have a student or two completely vanish at the end of each term. They never show up for the final or hand in the research paper. I have 4 of those this semester! I am posting grades and getting on a plane tomorrow. I’m guessing one of these emails will come in while I’m on a beach in Florida. Waaayyy too late.

    I know the frustration. Even made a video about it:

    1. Clay, are you SURE you weren’t in my classroom at any point, witness the dozens of conversations I’ve had that went EXACTLY like this?? 🙂

  10. Well clearly this student is already pretty baked.

    I’m not a teacher, but I am a copy editor. It would take every bit of restraint I have not to send it back marked up.

    Also, how the hell did this kid get admitted to college? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

    1. This student was from a community college where non-matriculated students do not have to take an Accuplacer test. They can just show up (or, as in this case, not show up).

      For all I know, this student might be a stellar mathematician or chemist. He or she just doesn’t understand the idea that texting is not an appropriate way to communicate with people you are trying to impress.

  11. Way too many ways to respond to this and too little time this morning…

    I retired from teaching public school music, in which my second graders were required to write complete sentences, using correct spelling, capitalization, subject, verbs, predicates, etc. in music!! I sub when available and have been known to say that I love subbing. However, Educlaytion’s video sounds like every conversation I’ve had when subbing in middle schools this year. I am appalled at the energy students put into not learning. One student’s reason for not completing his assignment in Friday’s class, “It’s not my thing.”

    Walking into middle schools (and some intermediate schools) is like walking into the worst of the reality TV shows. We are raising a generation of McDonald’s workers and public assistance participants. Renee, this gets back to your question of how we got to this point in education. There are so many things that have happened in children’s lives since the “Dark Ages” of my schooling, and these things are destroying their future. Turning things around will take heroic efforts by brave, intelligent, not-taking-no-for-an-answer leaders! But..this morning I’m out of time because I have a noon date with some third, fourth and fifth grade students!

    1. I like that excuse, “It’s not my thing.”. Of course when I was in school, it would have gotten me a swat upside the head. I never did homework in school. I was one of THOSE kids. Teachers hated me because I was smart enough to do the homework, I just didn’t care to. I would never think to tell a teacher, sub, or anyone that it’s not my thing. Kids these days are in for a HUGE wake up call when they get into the real world. I try to keep it real with my kids, tell it like it is, etc. Hopefully they’re more prepared than others and can succeed in life.

  12. My husband spends much of his time in a chat room for computer programmers. All different nationalities, most of the participants have English as a second language. Every now and then someone enters the chat room and starts using text speak, it is considered rather rude to those who have English as a second language (as well as being nauseating). When someone starts using text speak they immediately get a message back saying “sry cnt ndrstnd U”. The offenders usually start to behave like intelligent human beings or simply go away.

    1. This is very interesting.

      “sry cnt ndrstnd U”

      It’s a little passive aggressive, but I might have to try it.

      Or at least ask my students how they might feel if they received that answer to an email.

  13. and another thing….
    my sister told me that there was once a job going in the laboratory where she works and an applicant rang up for some information about the job. They had a very pleasant chat on the phone and my sister duly received an application form from the person she had spoken to. Bear in mind that this was a job for a degree level scientist who would be dealing with the public, mostly by email and phone, there was little face to face contact.

    The applicant’s form arrived with a hand written covering post-it note which read “Hi Gill! gr8 2 talk 2 U the other day. CU @ interview”.

    The applicant did not get an interview – can’t imagine why.

  14. I teach exclusively online, so I see and send hundreds of emails per class every semester. Not once have I had anything that atrocious.

    I can live and let live re: text-speak as long as my students understand when and why to approach me with a more formal (and spell-checked) tone. If an email is to sent to me alone, I don’t mind a casual tone, and I don’t mind a few text-speak mistakes. After all, emails are dashed off far more often than they are composed.

    However, I tell my students that if an email is sent to two or more people, the proofreading has to be more carefully done. (I realize it can seem it isn’t done at all, but I believe students do proofread. It tends to be for content only, perhaps, but it is done.) Just like a lesson, this is easier for students to understand if I provide a rubric of what is expected.

    The goal is not to have students transform their communication habits to my preferred way of behaving. The goal is to teach students which communication tools are most appropriate to a situation.

    1. Complynn:

      I find it hard to imagine that you don’t get these types of emails. I talk to teachers/adjuncts/professors all the time and everyone is complaining about how texting is interfering with the quality of writing.

      I guess it says it all that you let students text you. I am not interested in having that kind of relationship with my students.

      Text messages interrupt my life.

      They mean, “I need your attention – now!”

      I have a family. Believe me, I devote a lot of time to my students, but I would never want that kind of relationship with my students. Not only that, but I don’t think it does students any kind of favors, teaching them they can just text the Prof. the moment they get stuck. I like folks to squirm a bit. That’s usually when people do the most learning.

      Unlike you, I am bothered by the MISSPELLINGS and the uber-casual tone, and I think it DOES confuse students as to what is acceptable. I am an English teacher; if students write me, they had better proofread carefully. In my humble opinion, to accept anything less than their best work is doing a terrible disservice to them.

  15. I lived in Pittsburgh for a few years. (Some) Native Pittsburghers have a strange way of leaving out the verb “to be” in certain sentences. For example, “My lawn needs mowed.” It took me several months of sitting with these folks (we were all law students) to realize that — gasp! — most of them were actually quite bright. After some Leave Out To Be-avers (<— FUNNY!) ended up in my circle of friends, I asked them why they insisted on speaking in a grammatically incorrect/confusing way when they knew The Truth.

    In every case, defenders of "Not 'To Be'" (if only they were around in Shakespeare's time) focused on the *efficiency* of leaving out words in sentences if the meaning can be communicated to the speaker. As someone who is prone to understanding the desire to make things easier, I still find myself unable to stomach this argument.

    The fact is, my friends — and this student — sound like idiots. That is not to say that they are idiots (my Pittsburgher comrades certainly were not), but they *sound* like idiots. They sound like someone who is not worthy of the benefit of the doubt (even if they are). If they don't put in the effort to "inefficiently" write out complete sentences, why should I believe their legal argument, or trust them when they are asking for an exception in a college course, or want to take them out to dinner?

  16. The other day I received an email from one of my ex-students. It was not very lengthy but it took me about 10 minutes to make head or tails out of it.

    The next day I told my present students:

    If you are sending me an e-mail, keep in mind the fact that I am your teacher. Abbreviations are welcome but it should not cross the limits. I cannot spend more than two minutes to read a mail.

  17. I am of the mind that not every battle (grammatical or otherwise) is worth the fight. This one isn’t. A simple “That’s unfortunate for many reasons” would suffice from my perspective.

    Maybe I’m just lazy.

    Or apathetic.

    I prefer realistic.

  18. I get emails like this all the time. All the friggin’ time. To quote Clay above: All. The. Time.

    My background in linguistics has trained me to be more objective about a lot of the language changes I see, but I’ve rejected the idea that we should never pass judgement on how these changes are taking place. Yes, language changes constantly, and there may be a time when texting abbreviations are more acceptable in formal context, the fact remains that right now they are not acceptable.

    I tell my students on the first day of class that if I see texting abbreviations in essays, I take a full letter grade off for each instance. Actually, I sometimes alternate that with simply handing it back ungraded and telling them they have to re-do it with a signature from a Writing Tutor (we have a tutorial for the school). I’ve found that I don’t have a problem after the first paper.

    Mind you – I work at a community college, so there are no entrance standards. Students have to take a placement exam, and if they perform below minimum college standard, they have to take remedial classes. About 60-70% of our students take remedial courses in math, reading, and writing. I teach both remedial writing (for both native and non-native speakers) and also Comp/Lit 1 and 2. I feel almost like a gate-keeper, and so I’ve become much more strict about cracking down on language like this in class assignments. That student would fail my class, not only for all the missed work, but if s/he handed in an actual essay written that way, it would most certainly get an F.

    I also remind my students that their email messages to me should also reflect that they are emailing a professor – not a sister, cousin, friend, boy/girlfriend, coworker…I may be a bit more forgiving because many of my students are the first in their families to go to school, and they are still learning what it means to be a college student. I certainly do warn them to pay attention to their writing, even in email. I’m playing with the idea of threatening them with grades on email messages if they continue to send writing that is full of text-speak.

    So to respond to that student, I’d just say that too much work has been missed and it would be impossible to catch up. In the future, s/he should talk to the professor before things got out of hand, and also be sure to pay attention to language skills in the email message, or the professor would think s/he doesn’t even care.

    1. I love this so much. I think this is clear, but also allows for some wiggle. Love it. 🙂

      The scary thing is that some faculty members conducted a study and determined that just because students are placed into a remediation/Transitional Studies program, it did not necessary mean that those students were any better prepared to succeed in English 101 than when they started out.

      That was troubling news. 🙁

      One student asked, “Well, what course can I take that will help me succeed in English-101?”

      At the time, we did not have the answer.

      People have been working on it, and some good changes have been made.

  19. I think what it comes down to is whether or not this is a cooking class, because then the use of the word “baked” could be deemed appropriate. I taught English to speakers of other languages and that is what this email reminded me of, but I am assuming this is not from someone who just arrived in the country?

    1. Actually, I can’t be sure as this came from another educator, but I can tell you I receive correspondence like this All. The. Time. – as I said above – and usually my non-native speakers have better grammar than my native born speakers of English.


      Because they work their butts off to learn this language that we take for granted. Because they understand that if they can write and speak proper English, doors that would have been closed are suddenly open to them. As a broad generalization, I would say that American children could learn much from non-native speakers.

  20. I LOVE the comments you get on this blog. All. The. Time.


    All I can add to this thread is that I drive my kids INSANE by insisting on texting them with correct spelling and capitalization (down to the apostrophe in contractions and possessives).

    They tell me I’m a dork.

    BUT. I am hoping they will never beg a future college professor to be let “bak” into his class.

  21. I feel your pain, Renée…here’s an e-mail I received a month ago from my daughter’s high school principal (I have removed the last name and changed the initial to protect the idiot!):

    Good afternoon all,
    This is Mr. B. calling to inform you that the school recieved a threatening phone call today. Although it turned out to be a crank call, we took it very serious placed the school into a lockdown. The police were called and very quickly resolved the problem.
    I also want to tell you that this is the week of our musical and the tickets are going fast. If you are thinking of attending, you better pick up your tickets at the office or get them at the door.
    Thats it for now,

    Mr. B.

    My daughter told me that the principal doesn’t teach any classes…I am thankful to hear that!


    1. Wendy! I somehow missed this. I see stuff from principals all the time that has me wondering. And then shaking my head. And then wondering some more.

      Don’t administrators understand their correspondence represents all the educators in the school – higher education in general – and it needs to be grammatically sound.

      How many errors are in that piece of correspondence?

      I lost track when I blacked out. At “recieved”! 😉 Glad to hear they took that crank call serious. Argggh!

  22. Hi Renee,

    I feel sorry for that student. The mistakes in that letter cannot be attributed to laziness, inattentiveness, or teen-speak. Unfortunately, that young person has a hard road ahead if the letter represents what he or she is capable of doing.

    My oldest was a first year college student last year. She’s always been a good student and was listed on the honor roll most semesters in high school. One night, she called me to complain about a professor. She summed up the problem, “He hates me!” After digging deeper I learned that she had sent him an Email that he edited for content and returned, advising her to, “Try again.” I asked her to forward the Emails.

    It turns out that her Email was grammatically correct, but it was written in a familiar tone. Also, my daughter CC’d everyone in her class without indicating who was to respond to what. Lastly, he lectured her a bit on proper Email etiquette.

    I agreed with the professor and thought that it was great that he addressed the issue in this way, by giving her a second opportunity. I advised her to thank him and to rewrite the Email. She still thinks that he hates her, but I know that he doesn’t.


    1. Hi Ray:

      I now discuss tone and audience on the very first day of class. This generation of students is growing up honestly not understanding that email and texts are not always to be used casually; they have to be taught to consider with whom they are communicating and about what. Hopefully, in time your daughter will see that the professor who “hated her” helped her to think critically about the way she was corresponding with people she is trying to impress. 😉

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