Teaching policies

Communication policy

I like getting email. I don’t like getting emails written as text messages. Besides showing very little respect for the reader, receiving emails which aren’t written properly forces the reader to decode just what your correspondent actually wants from you, wasting their time and frustrating them. Sometimes the intention is obvious, like the email I received two years ago.

Hi wht cum up n exm thx

In my lectures, I try to emphasize just how maddening it is to get hundreds of poorly written emails a week. Part of your training at QMS should include training in how not to annoy those directly responsible for educating you. So, rather than swear at my computer every time I see a poorly written email and end up putting a sad box face on like this fella:

I’m writing this guide for you. Please use it when you correspond with me, or I just won’t reply. The policy will benefit both us, honestly: it will be good for my mental health, and it will help you learn something about spelling, composition, grammar, and professional etiquette, which you will need to know once you head out to the world of work in any case. So learn now.

Subject: [Module Title if appropriate] Something you want from me/want me to see/want me to do/etc

Subject lines speed things up, writing them well is a fine art, see here for tips.

Greeting: Dear Barry,

You don’t need to call me Dr (I’m not a real one), or Professor (I’m not one, I’m just a lecturer). If we aren’t friends, ‘Hi/Hey/Yo/etc’ isn’t appropriate. ‘Dear’ is a bit old fashioned, but it will do. The comma is important. Formal emails and letters use a colon (:) instead of a comma, and you should always hit return twice before beginning the main body of your email, which should, of course, be as short as possible.

Body of the email. State your question, pose your problem, give the information, etc, as precisely as you can. Brevity is good.

Here I don’t have any specifics for you, just write the email using the rules of grammar and, perhaps, your word processor’s spelling software. Keep the tone formal, but this is an email, not a royal letter, so there is no need for grandiloquence in the language used.

I can tell you what not to write. Don’t put yourself down. “I know you’re really busy but…”, “You don’t remember me, but…”. Your time is valuable, and you are writing to me for a reason. If you are in one of my classes, I see it as my job to reply to reasonable and well written requests from students. Just give the email twenty seconds more thought, and everyone will be happy.

Closing. Close the email with Regards, [your name, your student number if appropriate].

And we’re done. I’m looking forward to reading your next email.

If you’re curious about writing well, read this book, and if you can’t be bothered with that, here are Stephen Kinsella’s notes from the book.


I expect you to use AI (ChatGPT and image generation tools) in this class. Some assignments will require it. Learning to use AI is an emerging skill, and I provide some tutorials in Canvas about how to use them. I am happy to meet and help with these tools during my coding clinics or after class.

Be aware of the limits of ChatGPT:

  • If you provide minimum effort prompts, you will get low-quality results. You’ll need to refine your prompts so you can get good outcomes. This will take work.
  • Don’t trust anything it says. If it gives you several facts, assume it is wrong unless you know the answer or can check in with another source. You will be responsible for any errors or omissions the tools provide. It works best for topics you understand.
  • AI is a tool, but one that you should acknowledge using. Please include a paragraph at the end of the assignment that uses AI explaining what you used the AI for and what prompts you used to get results. Failure to do so is a violation of academic honesty policies.
  • Be thoughtful about when this tool is useful. Don’t use it if it isn’t appropriate for the case or circumstance.
Barry Quinn
Barry Quinn
Director of Finance and Artificial intelligence laB FAB