Do you use emoticons in your business email? :-)

?????????????????????????????????????Emo????????ticons are important1.

As organisations become more social media aware so emoticon use has developed. From indicating the emotional state of the sender, an emoticon now also helps a receiver to decode emotional intent.

Emoticons seem to help email messages to be interpreted. They provide some emotional contextualization. Business emoticon use usually conveys a positive attitude. Often, this occurs after a signatureglad-icon 2, or can indicate a joke or piece of irony: “I am 36. I have never had a car. However, I have driven others’ cars since I was 18, without making a scratch, but that doesn’t count, I guess.”

However, the most sophisticated use of emoticons is in relation to ‘hedging’. A hedge often follows an expression of thanks, or a greeting. Two uses have been identified. The first way to use an emoticon strengthens a positive intention. Conversely, the second way to hedge is to soften a message that may otherwise be perceived as having a negative emotional intent, for example, corrections or complaints: “Hi Maria, did you mean stationery or stationary?.ok-icon … John” .

Messages that may appear as demanding, intrusive or even rude, are now usually accompanied by an emoticon. They enhance meaning so that a message is not over imposing, impolite or authoritative. “Shouldn’t we take into account customer needs for information? Maria’s reply: “No, say I”  ok-icon

The next time you want to moderate expectations within your message consider using an emoticon. Please share your experience with us.

1 Based on research by Skovholt, Gronning, and Kankaanranta (2014) The Communicative Functions of Emoticons in Workplace Emails: :-), Journal of Computer – Mediated Communication 

2 Google ‘emoticon’ for information about specific 

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Marjorie Raymond

Marjorie Raymond

T: 07779 345 499


We have experience in developing senior managers and their team members – both on an individual and team level – so they can develop practical approaches that encourage positive, constructive behaviour. This, in turn, leads to the development of positive beliefs and values. We are ready work with you, to help you get the best out of your people.

Here are some examples of approaches that can be used and tailored to your individual needs:

  • Special projects, secondments and assignments
  • Mediation, to address workplace conflict
  • Personal development activities
  • Individual and group coaching…Coaching – a powerful way of developing people
  • Psychometric assessment, which can identify strengths as well as derailing behaviours and also include 360 degree feedback
  • Structured module for understanding the psychological contracts in your organisation, both at an individual or team level
  • Straight Talking: …Straight Talking create change through conversations