To emote, or not to emote?

The word “emoticon” didn’t exist before e-mail, and we were probably better off for it.

You know what an emoticon is: a portmanteau of “emotion” and “icon,” an emoticon is a two or three-character grouping that expresses emotion. For example, 🙂 is a happy face, and 🙁 is a frown. Used in a sentence, an e-mailer might type,

I found a million dollars today 🙂 but then I was hit by a bus 🙁

(For an exhaustive list of emoticons, click here.)

Some emoticons are harder to interpret than a poorly conceived vanity license plate and are annoying for that reason. And others view emoticons as a sign that the writer is being flirtatious. Is it really appropriate to wink at someone 😉 in an e-mail? Then there are the internet acronyms—LOL, FTW, ROFL, etc., etc.

Heaven forbid any of these creep into professional e-mails or worse, written correspondence, which in today’s world is increasingly reserved for the really important stuff, like contracts and legal notices. You’re being sued. 🙁

For too many people, emoticons are a crutch for their writing. Good writing should stand on its own, without the need for emoticons or cutesy acronyms. After all, if it’s not obvious that your intent is to be funny, serious or really drive home a point (sans emoticons), then maybe you need to redraft your work and make better use of effective language to express your meaning.

After all, can you imagine Mark Twain using emoticons?

Any emotion, if it is sincere, is involuntary. 🙂


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