You’ve seen them. The little smiley faces made out of a colon and a close-parentheses.
The wink, the frown, the sticking-out-of-the tongue:
You know the ones. They’re so ubiquitous that many computer programs automatically transform them to pictures of little faces rather than use the keyboard representation. They’re everywhere.
I wouldn’t dream of telling you NOT to use them (as much as a part of me would like to), but what I will tell you is to use them sparingly. Just like exclamation points, just like too-familiar adjectives, the usage of the emoticons is too common.
What that translates to, for a writer, is laziness. It’s so easy to make a snide comment and then follow it up with a little happy face to show that you didn’t really mean it. Or to make sure the reader knows you’re telling a joke. Or just that you’re having a miserable day. The thing is, for a writer, that’s what the words are supposed to do. Emoticons just take that old saw, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and expand on it ad infinitum.
But, do you really want to be known for your laziness? Sure, emoticons are handy little things to toss into an e-mail to a friend. But when they come en masse, they become obnoxious. One bee buzzing around your picnic is atmosphere, but a swarm can get, er, difficult. Similarly, an e-mail with one little smiley face is cute. One that has one after every other sentence? Gag (as they said in my high school days).
All this should not be surprising since you already know how I feel about abbreviations, and emoticons are the worst kind of abbreviations, because they’re not even words, they’re pictograms. (And, oh, there’s a post for another day!) If you’ve been paying attention, you will have noticed that I never, ever use emoticons. If anything, I’ll type “(grin)” where that little would go because, yes, I’d rather type the extra five keystrokes than use an emoticon. I had a brief fling with them when I first learned of them in college, back in the late 1980s, but quickly decided they were too “cutesy” for my taste. Too casual, even for casual e-mails. Too annoying, because, of course, everybody picked them up when they first made their appearance. But, hey, I never yearned for a Cabbage Patch doll, either.
But maybe that’s just me.
Is it? How do you feel about emoticons? Are they cute? Fun? Functional? Annoying? Omnipresent? Useful?
(And–interesting. WordPress DID “translate” those typed emoticons to little smiley faces. Sigh. Even when you want to use the things, the computer-world works against you!)