Punctuality Rules!

MM: Emoting

MM: Emoting


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!)

8 thoughts on “MM: Emoting

  1. Judy H.

    I use them rather freely in IM, and sparingly in email or blog comments. The more informal the setting, the more likely I am to use them. (And, frankly, the more unusual ones available in IM can be pretty entertaining…)

    Judy H.’s last blog post..Not Dead Yet…

  2. AmyL

    I agree with Judy. I like to have them in IM and e-mails, but not elsewhere. The Yahoo IM smilies are cute, and I like the toothy smile one the best. I do like to use the typed abbreviation to make sure people understand that I’m being friendly. I don’t like it when that turns into the actual smiley in comments or blog posts. It takes too much attention away from the rest of the text.

    I believe there’s a setting in WordPress that allows you to turn the smileys off.

    AmyL’s last blog post..Thinking Spring

  3. --Deb Post author

    Well, it’s definitely true that there’s a big difference in formal and informal writing, where these are concerned! It’s just that some people can’t seem to tell the difference.

  4. JC

    Can’t stand the damn things, myself. Too cutesey for my taste, rather like a young girl dotting her “I”s with little hearts, plus I sense a great deal of insincerity in their use.

  5. pussreboots

    It depends on where I’m writing. I don’t use them in my own blog. I don’t use them in email because most of my email is professional / work related. I use them when chatting with friends and family. I use them on certain online forums where they are expected.

  6. J

    I use them as sparingly as possible, but sometimes they can help with the too casual atmosphere of IM, where thoughts seem to jumble around. I have two friends with whom I mainly communicate using IM, and with them, the emoticon is handy.

    J’s last blog post..How to Use Your Apostrophe Correctly