It’s a golden age for punctuation, opined Mary Norris, copy editor for the New Yorker magazine during a recent interview with Michael Enright, the CBC radio host. Norris gave credit to social media for much of the fun: emoticons and their cousins, emoji, have provided a wealth of expression not covered by the ordinary exclamation point.
In case the distinction is unclear, emoticons represent facial expressions and are created using standard keyboard characters. The smile, for example, combines a colon and a comma — :). Emoji originated in Japan and the word itself means picture letter. There are emoji to represent a wide variety of objects and activities, including plants, flags and travel destinations.
As adorable as they are, a debate rages. Are emoticons appropriate in business communication? It depends on your point of view, on the organization your represent – and on the recipient of your email or text message. In other words, context is the key.
If you work for a Bay Street bank, the work environment is formal, so it is a good rule of thumb to stay away from emoticons in your business correspondence. If you work for an advertising agency, where creativity rules the day, using emoji may be accepted simply as evidence of that imagination.
Learn to keep your emoticons in check when the situation warrants, or your virtual smile may be rewarded with a real, live frown.