March 26, 2014

Emoticons (or emojis depending on your verbiage preference) are those fun (maybe annoying?) faces and characters that we have started using in our text messages, emails, communications, blog posts, and social media posts. They're everywhere and we can't avoid them.

Depending on who you talk to, these emoticons may be the most annoying part of our language or they may be the best addition to our written communications.

I'll admit that I frequently use them. In almost all of my daily communications.

In fact, if you read my blog, you're used to seeing them here. If you follow me on any social media site, you know you've seen them there. I use them in emails (even professionally - so long as the conversation is casual, mind you) and in text messages. Emoticons have become a regular part of my everyday language.

But I'm always reading blog posts and social media posts about how many people hate using them - or worse, seeing them. Or how they are ruining our language skills.

I recently read this article about the science of emojis and it got me thinking. Sure there are arguments for either side of the debate, but given the evolution of our current written language, I do believe that emoticons are helping us be better communicators.

You see, emoticons alone aren't "ruining" our language skills. We are ruining our communication skills.

I was trained in proper English skills. I am the grammar police you hate. I can write a paragraph-long sentence and appropriately use a mix of punctuation, ensuring that the sentence is actually grammatically correct, regardless of its length. But as you can see from this post, and everything else I write, I don't actually use those skills. Why? Because no one else does. It's not commonplace anymore to use "proper" English.

Look at the average text message you write - how's your punctuation? How's your spelling? Have you ever noticed that we don't use periods at the end of sentences anymore? Seriously, go look at any short text message or social media post or response - most of the time, we leave the comment hanging with no closing punctuation (like a period).

And how often do you really use commas where you're supposed to? If you really want to know how bad our writing skills are, have Siri (or other automated voice) read your text messages. They sound like the worst run-on sentences known to man kind and they are almost impossible to understand.

We're always leaving important indicators out of our sentences. Instead of saying "I wish you could be here" we say  "Wish you could be here." Is it a big deal? No. And I do it all the time. Think of the split seconds you saved by not having to type the "I" and a space! 😉 But how long before we start leaving out more important words?

What about slang? I know I'm guilty of this! I use gonna, wanna, em (instead of "them" and no I don't include the appropriate apostrophe), or I leave the "g" off anything that should end in "ing". We look for shortcuts in everything we write.

And when it comes to blogging, we are (or we should be!) writing conversationally. We write in weird short sentences. Like this. We go off on tangents. We let our personality shine through! If you've gotten to know me at all, you know sarcasm oozes from me on a regular basis.

And this is why I will continue to use emoticons - even if you hate them.

You see, if I write cranky sounding complaints, you would probably think I'm a horrible person. But if I throw up my go-to winky face, now you know (or at least I hope you do) that I'm being sarcastic. That I don't actually mean it "like that".

The difference is that in the "real world", when we connect face to face or you can hear the inflection in my voice, you know that I'm being sarcastic. My body language tells you that. But reading a long winded (we all know brevity is not my strength) blog post, you can't necessarily infer my facial expressions. So, I rely on emoticons to show you what I'm doing.

Yes, I may stick my tongue out if I'm frustrated - expect to see that reflected in an emoticon. I am a very smiley person - if you've met me IRL, you already know this. So I use a lot of smiley face emoticons - especially on social media. When I can't check my sarcastic tendencies, I will include a winky face to reassure you I'm not really a bi-otch.

Given our reduced written communication skills today, I honestly believe that emoticons help me convey my message more clearly. They fill in where the lack of words in our current language would normally go.

If you don't like emoticons, you don't have to use them. If you don't like them, you're entitled to complain about them. But I will continue to use them, even if you don't like them. And I'm ok with that! 🙂

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  1. Love, love, love this! I agree completely about the use of emoticons. Although I don’t use them in my blog or business emails (I do write conversationally however, as you well know). But I love using them in FB posts and the like. They are a great way to convey tone, which is not always possible with the quick written word. Some may argue that they are overused, but so be it. To each their own! I will be sure to share this article!

    1. Thanks Kim! 🙂 I agree, to each their own. But I love that you and I are on the same page!

  2. Amen, sister! Tone and context can be so hard to decipher online. I think using emoticons can really help out, show personality, and help with understanding tone. I know they’re not for everyone – buuuut, I’m with you!

  3. I couldn’t agree more, Jenn! I do all of the same things you do in my casual communications. Since I love sarcasm, kidding and keeping people on their toes, I use these little smiley faces to ensure that they know (after a couple of postings) that I was pulling their leg. I think that they enjoy that – at least I hope they do!

    Keep up the interesting posts, Jenn!!

    1. Thanks Dave! A well timed smiley face can make everything more enjoyable. Glad you enjoyed the post.

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