One of the most effective communication tools that a tutor can use is their email. Email is still considered relevant in the technological world today but it can be used most efficiently if it sticks to these requirements:
This refers to maintaining the appropriate level of formality in the tutoring emails. It involves using precise and correct wording as well as sticking to certain conventional aspects like greetings, goodbyes, an email signature, the name of the person writing at the end of all of the messages and so on.
This is related to how easy it is to read and understand what is written. There are two ways to make a text easy to understand: linguistic readability and easy to understand design.
The design can be easy to understand by making the letters appropriately sized, using blank spaces between sections and paragraphs, using emphasis marks (bold, cursive, etc.), making indents (lists of paragraphs in the margin), numbering the sections, writing short messages that include the most important information. The criteria to keep in mind for writing the message include:
The length of the lines should not go over the side limits and the text should not exceed 60 characters per line.
Make sure the length of the text is short in general. When looking at the email on a computer or tablet screen, it is too long if it takes up more than one page.
Distribute the message out appropriately by using different paragraphs and separating each paragraph with blank spaces.
Linguistic readability depends on the complexity of the vocabulary used and the syntactic constructions. The main criteria for elaborating a linguistically readable text include clarity, precision and proper distribution of the information.
In addition to the previous components mentioned, the following are some of other important aspects to keep in mind:
It is essential to respond to all of the emails showing interest and offering availability. When handling email inquiries that are not directly related to the students’ skills or if the question is general, the tutor should always offer suggestions for solutions, guide them to other professionals, recommend books or other resources, ask them to clarify their question, etc.
The response time for emails should fall within the time frame that is stipulated beforehand and communicated publically to everyone in the group of students. The tutor can choose to offer a 48 hour window for responding to emails and questions. If the tutor knows they will not be able to respond within that time, they should let the students know and briefly explain the situation. Also, if the students question requires further action and will take longer to respond to, the tutor should first send an email letting them know that they received the message and that they are working on solving the issue or question.
For individual messages, always use the student’s name in the greeting. Speak to them respectfully and as time goes on and you create a rapport, your messages can gradually become more informal.
In addition to using their name, it is important to contextualise the message with the information that was provided previously either by the student or an external source and briefly sum up what the issue was before giving a response.
Cordial and respectful relationship:
Each message should include a greeting and a farewell sign off.
In general, it is better to avoid negative messages and try to suggest, propose, advise, etc. When sending messages about activity assessments, it is important to not only comment on mistakes but also mention things they did well. If the tutor is expecting a response, the tutor should make sure to indicate that.
Another important aspect to keep in mind when writing a message is the purpose of the message:
- General information for the group: The most appropriate style of writing should be neutral and formal because it is directed at the entire group.
- Personal information: These messages are aimed at responding to questions and communicating individual results from tests. They are private messages so the tone is more personal, especially when there has been continual correspondence. When the messages are sporadic, the tutor should continue to write formally.
- Participation in debates or forums: The tutor can informally participate as another person in the group but should always make sure the message they are trying to communicate is clear and that their tone is neutral. When making a synthesis of other interventions, messages have to be structured well, as it is not advisable to exceed in their extension.
In addition to the message’s intent, it is important to distinguish the practical method of writing the message. There are three different methods:
- Formal: self presentations, welcome, goodbyes during holidays, periodic reports on results, etc. These messages should be formal and use proper courtesy.
- Encouraging: activity reminders, suggesting debates, sending personal messages to students that are not participating, etc. These message allow for a subjective tone of voice and expressions that aren’t as formal such as remember to…Let’s go, you can do it!,
- Messages in reference to something: comments on the activities or work presented, presenting theoretical content, guidelines for carrying out activities, etc. This means transmitting academic information or information related to the organisational aspects. The style should be neutral and objective.