ELL Email Consultation

So, I don’t have a lot of experience with email consultations in general, but the other day, I had an ELL email consultation, which was a first for me. It was a lot more difficult. When dealing with ELL students, it’s a lot easier to talk to them, in person, about grammar and such. But how do you explain grammar in an email? Looking for trends in the paper is a good start, but what if there aren’t really very many? What if most of the errors are different?

Well, unfortunately, that was sort of the case with this email consultation. There weren’t many trends. Most of the grammatical errors were all different, and I didn’t really know how to address them all. So, I didn’t. I did the best I could to look for the ones that were most important and the ones that were “trends.” And then, I focused more on the paper as a whole, even though I don’t think it was exactly what the student asked for. I did suggest to the student, though, that if he/she (I can’t remember which) wanted to focus more on grammar, to set an appointment in-person would be best.

I guess the thing about e-mail consultations are that no matter what kind of consultation it is I always tend to wish it was an in-person one. I think that’s just inevitable—I’ll probably always think that, because I know how much more valuable it can be to have that two way instant communication. The next day (after the ELL email consultation), I got another email consultation and I wished the same thing: that the student had come in, in person. But, not everyone can always come into the center. Email consultations are better than no consultations.

Anyway, how would you guys handle an ELL email consultation? Have you had a lot of experience with those?


  1. Wow, Cassie. That's a tough situation. I think that an ELL consultation would be extremely hard to do without a lot of practice!

    I will be looking back to see what others have to say about this one!


  2. The big thing I find with ELL emails is to find the top one or two issues that impede understanding and work with those. There is really no way to cover everything grammar in an email, much less in an ELL email. So I work to find the top couple of points and then focus on those. If the writer is shifting tense a great deal or conjugating verbs inconsistently, those are things that can be discussed and pointed out using examples from their work. If the writer has problems with sentence boundaries or word order, again, try to use their writing as the example and show them ways to stay consistent and follow expectations.
    Mandy is correct: It takes a great deal of practice and effort. But, if you can explain grammar well in an email, you can work even better in person and with your own work.

  3. I think the challenges with e-mail consultations are slightly differen than the ones we deal with in a face-to-face consultation.
    I have a similar problem, Cassie, in that I always feel like I'm not addressing everything that I need to address in a page and a half.
    Zach's advice to address the top concerns is a good idea. If there aren't any particular trends, as you say, then focus on a few that you feel comfortable writing about.
    Also, I always try to address the issues that they are interested in, although sometimes they don't give me detailed information on a particular area. Sometimes there is just a lone question: "Does it sound good?" If you get that, then you can basically turn just about any writing concern and tailor it to that particular question.
    Good luck! :)

  4. I think that email consultations are tough no matter what. I find the most difficult thing for me is completeing the email in the time alloted. And, as you, Zach, and David pointed out, you can't cover everything that needs attention in one, single email.

    I always try to focus on what I think the writer would most benefit from, and then I just go from there. I haven't had the challenge of an ELL email consultation, yet. I think that'd be very, very difficult to complete if one tried to focus on a lot of different "grammatical" aspects.

    I think you did a good job of picking a few direct points to focus on. And, although you may have felt that it would have been more benifical to the writer had he/she been there in person, I think you did everything you could to help them out. Good job, Cassie on working very nicely through a tough situation.

  5. I do agree that in person consultations are easier than email consultations - and I think particularly with ELL students. You can't address everything in an email consultation unless you have the ability to write 10 pages of suggestions on a 2 page paper, which clearly isn't going to be helpful or beneficial for either you or the writer. I think if you stick to what the writer is asking help on and then perhaps address one or two other items, you can safely assume that you have met (most of) the needs of the writer.


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