Sympol11 2018 Conference Abstract

“Sorry :(” – brief emails and their politeness features


Anyone who has engaged in significant and frequent email communication has probably at some point sent a very brief email. Something along the lines of “Thank you so much” or indeed “Sorry :(”, but do these short emails have any unique characteristics? This talk argues that they do, and that they compensate for brevity with increased density in text of some CMC cues (Liebman & Gergle, 2016; Vandergriff, 2013) and the ‘thank*’ politeness marker (Pilegaard, 1997). These very short emails are additionally highly context dependent for their interpretation relying on knowledge of the historical relationship between the sender and recipient (Kádár & Haugh, 2013, p. 76).

This talk will discuss the composition of such short emails in comparison to a larger dataset of emails with diverse lengths, of which these brief emails form a part. This larger dataset is a collection of 1072 emails between a sole trader and her international academic clients who require proofreading or transcription services. The talk will focus on how writers can use such sparse text to effectively convey their message, and why such short messages as “Thank you so much.” are deemed worth the effort of sending, and how these may be necessary in terms of relationship management/relational tie maintenance (Goffman, 1971; Milroy & Milroy, 1992; Spencer-Oatey & Xing, 2003).


Keywords: CMC, email, relationship management, politeness



Goffman, E. (1971). Relations in Public; Microstudies of the Public Order. New York: Harper Colophon Books.

Kádár, D. Z., & Haugh, M. (2013). Understanding Politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Liebman, N., & Gergle, D. (2016). It’s (Not) Simply a Matter of Time: The Relationship Between CMC Cues and Interpersonal Affinity. In Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) ’16 (pp. 570–581). San Francisco, CA: ACM.

Milroy, L., & Milroy, J. (1992). Social network and social class: Toward an integrated sociolinguistic model. Language in Society, 21(1), 1–26.

Pilegaard, M. (1997). Politeness in written business discourse: A textlinguistic perspective on requests. Journal of Pragmatics, 28(2), 223–244.

Spencer-Oatey, H., & Xing, J. (2003). Managing rapport in intercultural business interactions: a comparison of two Chinese-British welcome meetings. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 24, 33–46.

Vandergriff, I. (2013). Emotive communication online: A contextual analysis of computer-mediated communication (CMC) cues. Journal of Pragmatics, 51, 1–12.




IPrA 2017 (International Pragmatics Association) abstract

Business and Pleasure; a Multimodal Approach to (Im)politeness in Email Data

This paper analyses the multimodal features in business emails between a British sole trader and 19 of her international clients. Within this data, emoticons, non-standard punctuation, textual alterations (bold, italic etc.), graphologically separated text (postscripts, subject lines) and the use of multimedia, may in some cases indicate deviation away from business talk into talk that is ‘tie strengthening’ (Milroy & Milroy, 1992) or relationship-oriented (Kádár, 2013) and (im)politeness-relevant. These features can also inform the recipient’s interpretation of the message, or add an extra layer of meaning to the text (Kankaanranta, 2006; Skovholt, Grønning, & Kankaanranta, 2014). Graphological separation can place part of the text obviously away from the main body, allowing the writer space to do relational work, or add supplementary content that is separate from the main email content. What is chosen for inclusion in these areas can help the recipient’s interpretation of the message’s meaning and possible intended tone. The diverse range of effects created by these alterations to an email message demonstrate their importance to the study of multimodal politeness in computer mediated communication.




Kádár, Dániel Z. (2013). Relational Rituals and Communication: Ritual Interaction in Groups. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kankaanranta, Anne. (2006). “Hej Seppo, Could You pls Comment on This!”–Internal Email Communication in Lingua Franca English in a Multinational Company. Business Communication Quarterly, 69, 216–225.

Milroy, Lesley, & James Milroy. (1992). Social network and social class: Toward an integrated sociolinguistic model. Language in Society, 21(1), 1–26.

Skovholt, Karianne, Anette Grønning, & Anne Kankaanranta. (2014). The Communicative Functions of Emoticons in Workplace E-Mails: :-)∗. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 19(4), 780–797.

LIAR 2016 (Linguistic Impoliteness, Aggression and Rudeness conference) paper abstract

A Study of Relationship Construction in Intercultural Business Emails

Liz Marsden, University of Huddersfield


My study uses relationship management/rapport as a method by which to understand the formation, strengthening and degradation of a relational network (Kádár & Haugh, 2013; Milroy & Milroy, 1992) via email. This is the opposite approach to that usually taken, as rather than examining existing language behaviour within a network (Kádár & Haugh, 2013; Kankaanranta, 2006; Kessler, 2010), I analyse how language can be used to construct a network.

This construction is accomplished through a series of predominantly non-salient politeness moves, such as establishing shared goals, teamwork, sharing troubles and similarities, and engaging in social non-business-related talk (Gremler & Gwinner, 2008; Price & Arnould, 1999; Shao, Zhang, & Guo, 2014). These moves provide the basis for my model of relationship management.

Regarding my data, the network studied is unusual, as ties between nodes are sparse, though one principal node (myself as business owner) exists which ties all the other nodes (19 clients) together. This is interesting from a politeness and pragmatic perspective, as each tie is created individually, with minimal or absent interaction with other nodes – this is largely due to the reason for contact (business) and the mode of contact (email). Thus each tie with the principal node constitutes a subtly different relationship; each pair (principal + other) constitutes a micro community of practice (Wenger, 1998), situated within a larger network.

Focussing on business interactions via email allows the relationship to be mapped from beginning to (possible) end. Additionally, as communication is between a sole-trader and her clients, personal relationships can be formed; clients are dealing with the same person repeatedly, therefore allowing for the creation of recursive behaviours and relational practices. Thus the line between client and friend, or social and business talk, can become blurred.

My PhD aims to use this rich and varied data to build a model of relationship management, explained through the framework of network tie creation, strengthening and decay.


Keywords: relationship management, networks, community of practice, business, computer mediated communication (CMC)


Gremler, D. D., & Gwinner, K. P. (2008). Rapport-Building Behaviors Used by Retail Employees. Journal of Retailing, 84, 308–324. doi:10.1016/j.jretai.2008.07.001

Kádár, D. Z., & Haugh, M. (2013). Understanding Politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kankaanranta, A. (2006). “Hej Seppo, Could You pls Comment on This!”–Internal Email Communication in Lingua Franca English in a Multinational Company. Business Communication Quarterly, 69, 216–225. doi:10.1177/108056990606900215

Kessler, G. (2010). Virtual business: An Enron email corpus study. Journal of Pragmatics, 42(1), 262–270. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2009.05.015

Milroy, L., & Milroy, J. (1992). Social network and social class: Toward an integrated sociolinguistic model. Language in Society, 21(1), 1–26. doi:10.1017/S0047404500015013

Price, L. L., & Arnould, E. J. (1999). Commercial Friendships: Service Provider-Client in Context Relationships. Journal of Marketing, 63(4), 38–56. doi:10.2307/1251973

Shao, J., Zhang, J., & Guo, B. (2014). Research on the influencing factors of customer referral behavior based on social network—Application in the catering industry. The Journal of High Technology Management Research, 25(2), 163–171. doi:10.1016/j.hitech.2014.07.006

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning as a social system. Systems Thinker, 7(2), 225–246. doi:10.1177/135050840072002


Multilingual Business

Some thoughts on why both language and culture are important.

Reflections and Ponderings

Everyone who knows me I’m sure is aware of my love of language learning – my irritating joy at seeing a Chinese character I recognise, my dogged determination to decipher German board game rules, my truly dreadful French claim-to-fame of basically being able to order a cheese and ham sandwich…

But I don’t just love it because it’s interesting, I love it because it’s also useful. Learning another language means connecting with a culture directly. I have in the last two years acquired many native Arabic-speaking friends, and while they are wonderfully open about their home cultures, we inevitably hit a barrier explaining certain specific cultural concepts – things that just can’t be translated, or that don’t ‘ring true’ when expressed in another language.

I also have the experience of being in a PGR office where English is the Lingua Franca*, with colleagues from Libya, Indonesia, China, Kurdistan and the…

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LIAR IV Conference

I just spent an immensely enjoyable three days getting my linguistics geek on at the LIAR conference hosted at the Manchester Metropolitan University.

Walking through canal street every morning was good for the soul, as was listening to amazing talks about building relationships, trolling, inter and intra-cultural politeness etc. I even got to break break with some absolute linguistic rock gods who I’ve been citing since I was an undergrad!

It was my first ever professional-level conference (i.e. not attended by PGRs only) and I couldn’t be happier about how it went.

First, a shout out to MMU catering – food was AMAZING!! Peppers stuffed with spinach and feta, patatas bravas, risotto-stuffed aubergine, brownies, flapjacks, Danish pastries – and all delivered perfectly on time in a room that was perfectly clean every time. I know what goes into making that happen, and you guys pulled it off with flying colours.

Second, my most grateful compliments to the organisers, Piotr Jagodzinski, Dawn Archer and Derek Bousfield; amazingly well compiled sessions, I felt like each talk flowed to the next pretty seamlessly, and great plenaries, all the speakers were amazing and thought-provoking.

And finally, everyone who attended, thank you for making me feel so welcome, and for your most kind compliments on my talk (which I felt trod a fine line between amusingly kooky and dangerously unprofessional). I hope to see you next year!

Here’s a compilation of my favourite tweets from the conference:


Of course, I couldn’t resist including a couple about my presentation 😛

Can’t wait for next year! (Though the LIAR followed by IPrA marathon might just kill me!).


Abstract Agony

Writing this abstract for my first ‘real’ conference (read: not only PGR students in attendance) has been a fiasco from start to finish.

I emailed the conference organiser 2 months after the second CfP had passed – my supervisor said he knew the organiser and was pretty sure he’d let me submit late. I was skeptical. I was wrong. He was delighted to accept my non-existent abstract for my completely unplanned and un-thought-about talk!


Now I had to write something.

I wrote the draft last Friday, sent it off to my supervisor and hoped for the best. He was not impressed. In his words “you’re normally a very good writer, but this is surprisingly bad”. Quelle surprise! Something I wrote in one afternoon, that I didn’t know how to write or what to write about wasn’t very good! Who’d have guessed it…

And now I’m on my third draft, trying to “focus on theory” and “be ambitious” and “make it relevant”.

It had better be good this time.

No-one wants to spend the afternoon writing an abstract when it looks like this outside (and is predicted to be cloudy by tomorrow!):



How to Make Transcribing SO Much Easier

I wrote this post on my Academic Tips and Tricks blog. I hope it’s helpful!

Academic Tips and Tricks

Don’t thank me for this post, thank my boyfriend, who is a genius.

This innovation actually changed my life. As a linguistics student I’ve done A LOT of really complicated transcriptions over the years, and I’ve done many many hours of simple transcription as a paid transcriber. My set-up used to look like this:

transcription set up 1

I imagine that looks familiar – you can quickly access the media player to stop and start it and if you’re doing a simple two-person transcript you’ve done what you can to make everything quicker. But you still have to waste time taking your fingers off the keyboard to click between the two programmes and manually start and stop the audio. You might even be clumsily clicking the bar on the audio player to skip back to listen again.

Now my set-up looks like this:

transcription set up 2No media player. And you don’t need a laptop with built…

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5 Best and 5 Worst things about Research

Inspired by a PGR friend who is creating a wonderful website of people’s best and worst things about research ( I thought I’d list my top 5 in each category. Feel free to comment with yours below – and feel free to contact my friend and contribute to her project :).

When my picture is uploaded to The Research Story, my best thing about research will be “Those “Eureka!” moments” and my worst thing will be “people saying “you’re so clever, this will be easy” – my pet peeve, as you will know if you read my post ‘Life Jackets’.

So, here are my top 5 in each category, I’d be hard pressed to order these – all the goods are good and all the bads are baad, so in no particular order:

My five best things about being a researcher

  • Those “Eureka!” moments
  • Being part of the PGR community
  • The amazing self-indulgence of getting to study something you love AND being allowed (even encouraged!) to talk constantly about it
  • Slowly feeling your expertise growing
  • Really feeling you’ve earned it

My five worst things about being a researcher

  • People saying “you’re so clever, it will be easy” when actually you feel like you’re drowning
  • Balancing work, family and studying
  • Feeling like you should know everything in your field and being immensely embarrassed when you don’t
  • Constant fear and uncertainty
  • Worrying that your contribution to knowledge is totally lame and not actually useful or insightful

So those are my 10, what are yours?

I’m Sooooo Confused!

Sometimes (always) writing a PhD makes you do this face:

This is me today. I’m trying to write something about requests, and I’ve categorised a bunch of stuff in my data as requests:

requests for action

requests for information

requests for support/patience, and

requests to meet

But they just don’t all follow the typology that most stuff about requests has used:

Mood Derivable (Do X)

Performatives (I am asking you to do X)

Hedged Performatives (I would like to ask you to do X)

Obligation Statements (You have to do X)

Want Statements (I want you to do X)

Suggestory Formula (How about doing X? / if you could do X…

Query Preparatory (Can you do X?)

Strong Hints (don’t you want to live in a clean house?)

Mild Hints (can you do me a favour…)

(Yu, 2011, p. 390)

But are things like : “How can I improve my sentence and explanation?” requests?

Are all questions requests? Most can be phrased as requests that fit into the typology.

What is the actual difference between:

“What’s your name?”, and “Can you tell me your name?”

Are the only questions that are actually questions  abstract seekings where you don’t actually know the question until you’ve found the answer and rhetorical questions?

Is asking for time any different from asking for a material action? Is it a question if the answer is only required to be verbal? Are you not also requesting the person’s time?


Thoughts? Let me know! For now I will just keep looking like the derpyest derp that ever derped.

disclaimer – this is not me, it is Jennifer Lawrence, but that’s basically exactly my face right now

Life Jackets

Sometimes I feel like I’m on the raft without a life jacket, and everyone thinks it’s fine, because I’m such a strong swimmer.

But I don’t feel like a strong swimmer.

I feel like I’m already slipping and the water’s below and who knows what’s lurking there…

And everyone’s saying “you got this”, “it will be a breeze”, “you’ll fly through”…

And I’m thinking “errr, little help here…?”

But it’s ok. Because everyone else on the raft is thinking that too.

We all feel like imposters faking our way through academia. We all think we’ve been lucky to get this far.

For me the proof was in a conversation I had on Wednesday with a forth year PhD student, who STILL feels like he’s faking it and that his great deceit will eventually be revealed and he’ll be cast out forever, a disappointment to all those who believed in him. What he can’t see or feel is all the hands holding on to him.

For other posts on imposter syndrome in PhD study, follow the links:

When Do I Start Knowing What I’m Doing?