Greetings and Closings: When simple phrases seem rather complex

A YouTube viewer asked me about the choice of closings in email. Indeed, if words are heartfelt, you’d think they’d be appropriate for a loved one, but if your significant other signed a message with “Heartfelt regards,” wouldn’t you be taken aback by the formality?

In my video series on email, I’ve taken the time to address greetings and closings in formal and informal messages as well as in friendly yet polite messages. I see differences in register, for example, with the phrases Love,  Best, and Sincerely. How many ELLs see the same differences? Mastering email involves learning how to construct an appropriate message. That process can start with choosing suitable greetings and closings. Of course, in some cases they’ll be omitted altogether, and that will be largely influenced by register.

Teaching tips:

1) Have students suggest different greetings for different situations. Note them and later organize them for reference. Could you make a digital copy and distribute it to the class? Do the same for closings. Talk about possible overlap. Could you use “Hi” with a good colleague? Do all business emails use Mr., Mrs., or some other title? How many people today are on a first-name basis with their boss? Let the following models be a jumping off point for such discussion.email 5_for TinyTap c

email 5_for TinyTap d

2) Have students create their own digital activities using different greetings and closings. A drag-and-drop puzzle is easy to build. Students can work in pairs to create sorting activities for one another. See model.

3) Have an email exchange to work on levels of formality. For example, half the class can write a formal request to cancel and/or reschedule a meeting. The other half can write an informal request. Students pair up, switch texts (or email their partner), and then rewrite the text to have the opposite level of formality. Models should be shared with the class. Click here for the Text Generation with Email_handout.

More activities from previous posts:

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