Monday, October 24, 2011

Emoticons enter the business world

Are emoticons an effective way to communicate "tone" in a medium where it's easy to misunderstand the author's intent or do they instead reflect a general degradation of writing skills?  It depends who you talk to.

Once the shortcut lingo of teenagers, emoticons are becoming more commonplace in the business world although serious writers abhor them according to this article from the New York Times:

Students of digital communication see the emerging acceptance of whimsical signifiers as inevitable, if not always desirable. “They’re part of the degradation of writing skills — grammar, syntax, sentence structure, even penmanship — that come with digital technology,” said Bill Lancaster, a lecturer in communications at Northeastern University in Boston. “Certainly I understand the need for clarity. But language, used properly, is clear on its own.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that writers and teachers of writing are among the last emoticon holdouts. “I am deeply offended by them,” said Maria McErlane, a British journalist, actress and radio personality on BBC Radio 2. “If anybody on Facebook sends me a message with a little smiley-frowny face or a little sunshine with glasses on them, I will de-friend them. I also de-friend for OMG and LOL. They get no second chance. I find it lazy. Are your words not enough? To use a little picture with sunglasses on it to let you know how you’re feeling is beyond ridiculous.”

Another harsh critic is Michele Farinet, a parent coordinator in an elementary school in Manhattan who spends much of her days answering and responding to e-mails of the (largely professional) body of parents. The whole subject touches a raw nerve.

“To me, it’s like bad moviemaking, where as soon as Dad grabs the puppy, the shot immediately goes to Junior’s teary face — like the director does not trust the audience to have an appropriately developed emotion by itself,” Ms. Farinet wrote in an e-mail. “That’s what emoticons do. PLEASE don’t ‘show’ me that I should be happy-faced or sad-faced or that you are sad-faced or happy-faced.

Continue reading here.


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