My ‘addiction’ started a few years back and accelerated over time: using emoticons in business emails. I considered them a visual alternative to the exclamation mark to underscore a point, an excuse, good news, bad news, an apology. Then a PR Daily blog caught my attention. The author, Arik Hanson, gave a brief history (emoticons were originally used for text messages – who knew?), then they started showing up in Tweets and Facebook posts. Now they’re a staple in many business communications.
In an updated post, Hanson still takes an ‘it depends’ approach to their use. In writing to a CEO, for example, an emoticon is unacceptable. If it’s to a client you’ve known for years, one who’s also a friend, and the general message is more lighthearted, then it’s okay.
I surveyed my Facebook friends on the matter. Most felt emoticons had no place in business communications. “Business emails should be precise. Avoid emoticons and abbreviations,” a few wrote in response. A client/friend was more direct: “I hate those little icons for business communication. Childish. Not serious.”
The exception was social media expert Mana Ionescu, who responded: “I think the smiley emoticon is okay in moderation – when it’s important to get across a friendly tone, in customer service emails or when in doubt about how a message would be interpreted.”
For a while, I committed ‘emoticon-ocide.’ No haphazard use of smiley faces, winks, frowns or even abbreviations (GTG, LOL). I even resisted exclamation marks. Slowly, though, they crept back in. The emoticon, I finally decided, keeps some messages from seeming too robotic, and they’re a way to show some personality. I’m hooked.
Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.