How to Use Spam as an English Editing Exercise

English editing exercises: Email scams

Inject some real-life English to the class. Try spam! I created an English editing exercise that helps students develop practical skills based on a small message.

English editing exercises with real content help build real writing skills. So I was delighted to find this email message in my spam folder the other day.

It’s one of those scam messages that involve dead rich people, bank problems, and a lawyer who desperately needs my assistance.

It’s also a wonderful English editing exercise.

English editing exercises with spam email
Spam is more than a canned food

 

Writing Exercise Description

Edit exercise step 1

Step 1 Show the message (10)

Here is the message I received. I don’t mind showing it in full. I doubt anybody will claim copyright infringement on this piece of work. I pasted the message in full without a single correction. You can read the same text on a pdf file.

Dear Friend

I am Mr.Robinson Jonathan attorney based in Lome,capital city of Togo.i saw your email and i become interested to know you more meanwhile I need your assistance to claim the sum of (US$5.7Million) Five million seven hundred thousand united states dollars deposited in a bank by my late client,who died in 2012 He have the same name with you,he was an independent oil merchant in my country.

The bank has authorized me as his personal attorney to bring his next of kin for the fund claim because he died together with the wife and the only daughter who are supposed to have inherited this fund.You can perfectly fit as next of kin to My late client we can work together as partner claim the fund and share it 50/50 I will give you more details as soon as I hear from you.

Regards

Mr.Robinson Jonathan

 

Edit exercise step 2

Introduce the idea of storytelling as a sales technique (10)

Ask students to analyze the message in terms of its storytelling features. They might mention things like:

  • it’s a personal story (the storyteller has a name and job)
  • there are some details about the place
  • reported speech (e.g. the bank authorized me to …) which makes the story seem real
  • there is a problem
  • there is another problem
  • there is a solution
  • somebody is asking me for something (call to action)
  • there is a potential happy ending (if I agree to help)

Spend a minute reviewing some of the mistakes in the text. These might include:

  • non-standard email message format
  • bad conventions (e.g. spelling, grammar, punctuation)
  • poor sentence structure and paragraph organisation

 

Edit exercise step 3

Quick error analysis (5)

Spend a minute reviewing some of the mistakes in the text. These might include:

  • non-standard email message format
  • bad conventions (e.g. spelling, grammar, punctuation)
  • poor sentence structure and paragraph organisation

Edit exercise step 4

Rewrite (15)

Ask students to rewrite the email message and fix the errors. Later, compare the revised email. Does the story sound more convincing?

More English editing practice

Do your students like/need more English editing practice? Here are a few short editing exercises. They can be used for early finishers or as sponge activities.

More writing and editing ideas (10-15 minutes)

Here’s a cool extension idea. The aim is to get students to focus on noticing facts and writing three complete sentences.

  1. Show this short video (less than 3.5 minutes) about spam ( the food).
  2. Students watch and listen.
  3. They take notes.
  4. Check sentences on board.
  5. Students rewrite and edit sentences in pairs.




1 thought on “How to Use Spam as an English Editing Exercise”

  1. This is a great idea. If you are teaching a more advanced class this links very well to a Ted Talk about spam email. If you are interested the speaker’s name is James Veitch.

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