On Teaching Fashion: Electronic Communication

If you work in the fashion industry, you know how vital the use of electronic communication and online networking are to getting your job done. Runway and trend reports, shipment tracking, merchandise stocking, and more, can all be transmitted via some form of electronic communication.

For those of you who are my fellow instructors, molding the up and coming fashion professionals of tomorrow, doubtless electronic communication is also an indispensable part of your work. As we prepare our students for careers in the industry, it is important that we, as their educators and mentors, include some mention of professional standards for conversing by email and other similar electronic exchanges.

I’m not referring simply to instructors’ grief caused by students’ grammar and spelling errors, which likely is a grievance as old as higher education. Today, I’m writing to you about the format of emails, text messages, and facebook messages we receive from our students.

To begin with, some of my students begin their messages to me with “Dear Mrs. Michel”, and others begin with “hey Lauren.” Further, I am amazed at the number of emails I have received this semester which are written in text message format. I have no objection to my students using their cell/mobile phones to check their email and then email me, however, the abbreviated format of a text message leaves entirely too much room for error and misunderstanding, and I try to instill that in my students in my classroom.

To give you a further idea of the types of correspondence I’ve received in the recent past, here are some direct quotes taken from messages that have arrived in my email inbox.  All formatting has been left as it was in the original messages:

  • hey there. i was wonderin where you room was to meet today…
  • The time and days I’m free not that just Fridays after 10:30 anything time.
  • i hate to keep bothering you lol but i have no idea where that is?.. or what building that is

Call me old-fashioned, but it is my opinion that the expression “lol” has no business in a message from a student to his or her teacher. Further, if the message a student sends me makes no sense, I begin to wonder how much he or she comprehends the messages I send in reply.

In a recent discussion on this topic, Worn Through’s Editor, Monica Sklar, had this to say:

I can tell you that my students write me in what I consider an altogether too informal manner. Some are very polite, and use email the way they would a professional phone call or office hours visit. Others use slang, don’t spellcheck, and use a tone that is ranging from overly friendly to oddly casual to downright snotty and bratty. I think the lack of face to face communication emboldens them to not keep in perspective I am their teacher…They are not all like that–but too many are.

Monica’s words mirror my experience and my sentiments.

My point in writing this post today is not simply to criticize student writing for being what it is: the words of students who are, first and foremost, students. They are enrolled in our institutions of higher learning for one common purpose, and that is to learn. While I recognize that I am not an English instructor and do not possess an English degree, I do take it upon myself to educate my students in professional communication standards as part of my fashion curriculum. How do the rest of you approach this issue?

To end on a lighter note, for the grammarians and spellcheck haters in our readership, I recommend a  video of poet Taylor Mali reading his poem entitled The The Impotence of Proofreading. I post it for you with the warning that, depending on where you work, the content may potentially be considered NSFW (Not Suitable for Work) because it presents the pitfalls of over-reliance on spellcheck with adult humor.

You can also click here to read the full text of the poem in the event that you have officemates with sensitive ears.

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Available now: Punk Style by Worn Through founder, Monica Sklar, PhD. Find it at : Amazon.com, Powell's Books, or a bookseller near you.