Monday, October 24, 2011

Smileys: Professional Writing Scourge:( or Boon:)?

I have noticed a steady increase in my colleagues' use of smileys in professional email correspondence lately.  While I remain officially undecided on whether this is appropriate, The New York Times effectively lays out the arguments regarding the smiley's impact on the quality of modern writing.  On one hand, smileys allow a writer to set the tone they want to set in email.  On the other hand, setting a tone using smileys feels like force feeding to some readers.  Some highlights from The NYT:

Lisa M. Bates, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia, has lately embraced the smiley — as have her academic colleagues, albeit “sparingly and strategically,” she said. “Basically, I’m often sarcastic and in a hurry, and a well-planted smiley face can take the edge off and avoid misunderstanding,” Dr. Bates wrote in an e-mail. “I figure they have saved me some grief from misconstrued tone many times.”

[One] harsh critic...Marsha Farinet [writes] “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.

“Can you imagine,” wrote Ms. Farinet, “reading the end of ‘The Great Gatsby’

like that?: So we beat on, boats against

the current, borne back ceaselessly into

the past :-( ”

How are legal writing professors addressing the use of smileys and other emoticons in class?  What does the existence of the issue say about the impact of electronic communication on professional writing?  Does anyone think we should use more smileys on the blog?;)  Or should we ban them completely and impose fines for smiley use?:(


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