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What’s In a Smile?

The emoticon has evolved from the “Have a Nice Day” logo of dots and parens to a host of possibilities. That little yellow face can hug, frown, smirk, cry, wink, laugh, and smile – among other graphic emotions.  I found at least 50 conveniently listed on my email server for easy attachment.

Usually placed at the end of a line to indicate the sender’s intent because the message lacks the gestures and facial expressions that would give clues to the meaning, the emoticon has graduated from the friendly email to the business world.

In her article for the New York Times – If You’re Happy and You Know It, Must I Know It Too? – Judith Newman suggests that writers use the ubiquitous smiley face because they may be too lazy to sharpen their words for a clear meaning. Also, irony and humor are hard to convey in print…and if you are

“…sarcastic and in a hurry…a well-planted smiley face can take the edge off and avoid misunderstanding…”

Critics argue that if you must hit someone on the head with the intention behind the inference, you’ve lost the power of the words. What happens when you have to explain a joke to someone?

So far those smiley faces have not ventured into the realm of the printed novel, but with the popularity of the electronic book, maybe it’s only a matter of time. Newman asks…

Can you imagine reading the end of  The Great Gatsby…   So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past 😦 

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2 thoughts on “What’s In a Smile?

  1. I don’t mind them in casual on-line conversation, but can’t imagine them being used in business communication. And in a book? I don’t want to be told what to feel by the author (although, come to think of it, there have been a couple of books where an author’s aside might have helped).

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