Students view email like Facebook – it’s an old people thing.

During orientation, universities preach, “Check your email.” Students comply but learn quickly to ignore all school-related emails because colleges follow the Amazon email philosophy – every update, reminder, or notification merits an email. A significant grading policy change gets the same email attention as the Taco Tuesday menu update.

With consumers bombarded by promotional emails, humor can humanize a company’s brand. Retailers, such as Zappos and Moosejaw, regularly use humor in their email marketing campaigns. They use an abundance of non-sequiturs and one-liners in subject headers, such as “Deals so decent you will want to lick the screen” and “How’s my hair doing?”

Educators can also use humor as a machete for cutting through notification clutter. Using nonsensical headers and funny content will grab student attention more than some standardized, predictable email message.

Subject headings that are timely with local appeal work best. I teach at Ohio University, and in our region, you’re either a diehard Steelers or Browns fan. After a playoff game between the two teams, I used a subject header, “Pittsburgh Steelers leaving NFL after loss to Cleveland Browns.” I received some nastygrams from Steeler folks, yet students read the email about an upcoming exam.

Adding the occasional funny to email is appropriate. But educators should never use emojis. Or Bitmojis. Never. Cringey. : – )

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