Posted on Apr 20 2011 in Technology Q&A by

This post is part of a series titled, “Technology Q&A.” The series features questions related to technologyand the answers! Have a question? Send it to Tech@HEAV.org.

80px-Binette-typoQ. I see a lot of references to “emoticons,” but have never really gotten into understanding or using them. Can you explain them to me?

A. Sure! :) I’m so happy you asked! :P


As most professional communicators will tell you, words account for a measly 7-10% of spoken communication. That leaves a whopping 90+%  of the message interpretation left up to the “audience,” with approximately 38% vocal and 55% body language making up the rest of “the message.” In written communication, the situation is slightly more convoluted when you consider body language isn’t part of the equation. That leaves the words themselves to imply the tone of the message. This is not so much an issue with official communications, but with personal communication, misinterpretation of the tone of the message can have a negative impact. I have experienced this personally. :(

A Quick History

Emoticons have surprisingly been around for more than 100 years, with one example (the transcript of an 1862 speech by President Lincoln by The New York Times) including a “wink”… ; ) While some argue that this was simply a typo, I’d like to think that folks back then had a sense of humor. Other less-refutable examples date to the 1880′s humor publication Puck.

In the 1980s and 90s, with the advent of readily available electronic communication (text, e-mail, etc.), emoticons began its meteoric rise to today’s graphical re-interpretations of keyboard emoticons, as seen above in this blog post. :D

Getting Started

So here are a few emoticons you can use as a primer. I am separating them with a space here and there because otherwise WordPress (the blogging tool used by HEAV) will replace the keyboard strokes with a graphic. There should be no spaces in an actual emoticon.

Happy   : )  or  :- )

Laughing    : D   or     :- D

Sad   : (  or   :- (

Wink   ; )  or   ;- )

Upset   :/   or   :{

Confused   : ?

Bewildered   O_0  or   O-o

Silly   : P   or   :p  (as in sticking your tongue out)

There are some Eastern emoticons such as (^_^), (^_^)/ and (-_-*) to “name” just a few of the simpler ones that are more expressive, but sometimes a little more difficult to understand. For example, (>’_’)>~(\) is “drinking from a twisty straw.”

Using emoticons can add a bit of depth to your message and can potentially keep you out of trouble. I know they’ve helped me quite a few times in the past.  :D

If you ever have any technology-related questions, please feel free to send them to tech@HEAV.org. We’d love to hear from you!

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