The 10 Essential Emoticons Everyone Should Know

I probably don’t need to tell you what a headache it can be to have something you’ve written be misread or taken out of context – the back-pedaling, the awkward explanations, and then explaining the explanations. Yes, communicating online is a tricky thing.

Since the creation of emoticons, thankfully, we’ve had some visual cues at our disposal to help convey feeling or intent more clearly. Emoticons, or icons that indicate emotion by the use of keyboard characters, have become an integral part of our online lexicon. As a textual shorthand for everything from instant messaging to text messaging, there are 10 essential emoticons you need to know:

  1. :-) The Smiley Face – This one is the grand-daddy of them all, the first-born of our “iconic” lingo. It tells the reader that whatever is said in association with it is intended to be read in a friendly/jovial/non-threatening tone.
  2. ;-) The Wink – Another versatile character, this emoticon expresses anything from playfulness, flirtation, to a sort of “just between you and me” confidentiality. It’s also frequently used, as is the smiley face, to say “just kidding”. Careful with these two. Use them too often, and it becomes obvious to the recipient that you’re really not just kidding.
  3. :-( The Frown – Expresses sadness, disapproval, sympathy, or “I just figured out that you really aren’t just kidding”. I told you to be careful.
  4. :-D  The Laughing Face – Self-explanatory, but context is important here. You’d like to know, after all, whether you’re sharing in the laugh – or being laughed at.
  5. :^* The Kiss – When you’ve moved beyond the simple smile or flirtatious wink, it’s time to pucker up with this little number. This can be used to maximum effect when combined with:
  6. ( ) The Hug – A parenthetic embrace, the hug conveys affection or empathy. Additional parentheses can be used for emphasis, but use this one sparingly, lest it lose its charm (by rodriguez). Also, as in the case of all emoticons, the hug is not recommended for business correspondence. You could be labeled a suck-up … or worse.
  7. <3 The Heart – Another emoticon for saying ‘I love you’. When used in conjunction with the kiss and the hug, now you’re really getting sappy. Easy does it. You can’t take these things back, you know.
  8. :-O The Surprised Face – This one expresses shock or dismay, as in:“I can’t believe you just e-mailed hugs to the GM, you suck-up”. Combine this with the laughing face when someone shares a bawdy joke or story.
  9. :-/ Confused Face – Bewilderment, apprehension. “How am I going to explain those hugs to all my co-workers, and what the heck was I thinking using Reply All, anyway?”
  10. { } No Comment – Empty brackets indicate that you’ve got nothing to say in response. You probably should have learned the difference before replying to that office email from the GM.

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