Saturday, August 14, 2010

A question about "hell"

A KoKo friend who now works at an English institute somewhere in the Korea Republic sent me this email query yesterday:
If you were the head of a school and hire a teacher, would you hire someone who use the word "hell' in his email to you when he's just upset at the formality of the school or red-tapes?
I started to answer just what all I would do if I were the head of a school, but it got off topic really, really quickly. I did ask for more detail and context, suggesting that there are different levels of "hell" (e.g., playful "hell" and angry "hell"), but since I'm sort of "Out of Office" for a few days, I thought this would be an interesting question to pose to my anglophone and English-teaching readers.

I would want worry that this person might be a hothead and such language in an email to the school is an unprofessional sign of worse to come, but then again maybe something went wrong that warranted this. Maybe the KoKo staff is too perhaps sensitive and they are overthinking a commonly used term (though I wouldn't suggest the f-word, etc., is acceptable). At the same time, effectively getting canned for saying "hell" in an email would suck big time. Any thoughts?

You may think I'm inserting this picture 
because it's a medieval depiction of Hell, 
but it's actually a typical English-teaching 
hagwon, circa 2002. 


  1. Is it me, or are standards slipping amongst the young folk? I hate getting old!
    Hell is not acceptable in a professional email - especially if it is in the context of procuring a new term of employment. I mean I thought that was just common sense. Is no one educating these people anymore? I don't want to sound self righteous (well no more than usual) nor do I want to give off an odor of curmudgeonliness but for frak's sake! What the HELL is he thinking?

  2. I'm not an English teacher....but as a working professional, I would say that to use the word "hell" in a professional email (ESPECIALLY when he/she is trying to get hired) is just way too casual and unprofessional for me. Hey, people's resumes get canned for misspellings, bad grammar, punctuation, errors, etc. If that's the case, then I sure wouldn't expect somebody who uses the word "hell" to get a free pass. I am not conservative by most standards, but you still must maintain some professionalism.

  3. Context goes a long way, especially if the applicant used the term in this way, "I am sorry that my E2 visa process has descended into a type of hell/limbo. It seems that the FBI criminal background check has ground to a standstill due to more and more employers requiring this when choosing their new hires, not only there in South Korea, but also here in the United States. Please bear with me, while I wait out this mere red tape formality."

    Now, had they said, "Please bare with me," we might have a problem with the applicant being an exhibitionist.


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