Emoticons in Business- Yes or no?

While some call them juvenile, and others may think they’re a waste of time, there’s no doubt that emoticons are here to stay.

Most of us try to combat the tonelessness of email by doing things like using multiple exclamation points and even throwing in the occasional emoticon. But do these smiley faces undermine our professional credibility or are they actually necessary?

One thing’s for sure, using emoticons has a very powerful effect. Take a look at these two emails for example:

Email 1:
Hi Claire,

I’ll need that report by 4 today. Thanks.


Email 2:
Hi Claire,

I’ll need that report by 4 today. Thanks ☺


How does each email make you feel? Quite differently, right? The first one comes across as a bit more short and demanding. The second feels a lot lighter, more encouraging and generally has a better feel to it. The only difference is a period in one and an emoticon in the other.

In a face-to-face conversation, each person would pick up the other person’s facial cues, negating any misinterpretations. However with the ever changing world and advancement in technology little by little, Internet and mobile technology seems to be subtly destroying the meaningfulness of interactions we have with others, disconnecting us from the world around us, and leading to an imminent sense of isolation in today’s society.

Emoticons can most certainly add a tone to an email or message however one needs to be aware of how you use it and the context in which you use it.

A suggestion would be to avoid using it in mails until the other person uses it. A smiley face is casual, light hearted and can be fun. Depending on your company culture, it may expect more strict or ‘professional’ interactions than the level that an emoticon adds. You should be able to use your words to indicate tone however if it is absolutely imperative to use the smiley face, use them sparingly.

There is something lost and something gained with all technology, and I would never underestimate words. But I think emoticons have the potential to make words more significant.” -Mitch Stephens, Professor of Journalism at NYU”


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