[globaloutlookDH-l] Some ideas on list language

James O'Sullivan josullivan.c at gmail.com
Wed May 15 15:16:13 MDT 2013

Dear all,

I just want to weigh in here behind Professor O'Donnell, and lend my
support to the suggested page on etiquette and tips for emailing in an
international context. This is an issue that I often struggle with, as in
an Irish context, scholarly debates tend to be pretty forthright. I've
often been challenged by colleagues, and have challenged colleagues, in a
fashion that, while to us seems normal, may, to another culture, be
negatively received. I sometimes find myself wondering if my argument is
coming across as too strong or forceful, or conversely, too timid. Of
course, this issue is amplified when different languages come into play.

Speaking as a postgraduate who is still feeling their way through a
multicultural discipline, this is something from which I would personally
benefit, and I'm sure that many other young scholars would feel the same.

Sincerest thanks,

On Wed, May 15, 2013 at 10:07 PM, Daniel O'Donnell <daniel.odonnell at uleth.ca
> wrote:

> Hi all,
> I had somebody ask me the other day about whether there should be any
> special advice for posting to a list like this--"like this" in the sense of
> explicitly multicultural, very conscious of multilingual issues, and so on.
> We've obviously been discussing aspects of language use in a variety of
> contexts on the list, but I don't think we've had a metadiscussion about
> how we should post to this list--things to keep in mind, to be careful of,
> and so on.
> Here's some of the things I suggested. What do others think?
> 1) Be really careful about humour, especially humour that could be misread
> as being dismissive, insulting, or mockery. One reason for this is because,
> as is well known, email doesn't convey tone well at all. But in the case of
> this specific list, we are also dealing with a variety of different
> academic cultures--what comes across as normal bantering in a more
> free-rolling academic culture may appear to be extremely aggressive in
> another.
> 2) Be careful about allusions to pop culture, and national history and
> politics. Many people may not get them. But more importantly, allusions and
> inside jokes shared among a small group of people can quickly create a
> sense of exclusion among those who don't know the references being made.
> 3) Since this is an academic list, we will find ourselves disagreeing with
> each other, attempting to correct or improve each other's ideas, and so on.
> In keeping with (1), be careful about how you phrase these disagreements:
> again, what may seem like relatively light criticism in one academic
> culture may seem crushing in another; and especially if there are language
> issues involved, it can be difficult to clear things up. This doesn't mean
> that we can't criticise each other's ideas, but rather that we should
> always try to phrase this disagreement as constructively and supportively
> as possible.
> 4) Generally, try to write in short sentences and using common words (this
> is true, BTW, of all languages on the list): you are being read by people
> who are not as strong in your language as you are.
> 5) Always try to provide context for people: use more links to external
> sites than you might normally (e.g. to explain ideas and give examples.
> If people think this is good and especially have additional ideas, we
> could perhaps publish a page on etiquette and tips for emailing in an
> international context?
> -dan
> --
> ---
> Daniel Paul O'Donnell
> Professor of English
> University of Lethbridge
> Lethbridge AB T1K 3M4
> Canada
> +1 403 393-2539
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