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by Kory Stone/Business Manager

On September 19, 1982, when a research professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Melon University, Scott Fahlman, placed together three specific punctuation marks – a colon, a hyphen and a parenthesis – for the very first time, but he knew little of what sort of impact it would make. As technology and our ability to communicate and connect via technology grew, so did our use of emoticons. Emoticons have pervaded almost all forms of written computerized communication: texting, chatting, messaging and e-mailing. As the acceptance of emoticons grows, we begin to see them not only being used in social setting, but professional ones. But is this acceptance a good thing? Do they in fact help with written communication and if they do, are there proper times in which they should or should not be used?


Emoticons can be helpful at times in conveying emotions in text.
Photo by Kaitlyn Conrad

Tosha Beard, an Elementary Education major, says that the use of emoticons can be useful when one needs to be quick or wants to be lazy, but other than that, they should be limited. Frances Hebron or “Frankie,” an undecided student, also feels that though they may be acceptable in some cases, but that they would ultimately lead people to rely less on their words and punctuation to express how they feel.  She states “A good writer doesn’t need to use emoticons.” It appears that many people around here share the view that emoticons have not really improved the collective coherency with which we write – that they, in fact, may hinder the emotion and eloquence that was once conveyed by skillful and passionate writing – replaced by frownies, winkies, and smilies.

While they may not always be useful, they still have some uses. For example, a smiley or a winky makes it much easier to relay certain types of humor without it being misconstrued. Some people, like John Sener, an educator with over thirty years of experience and a pioneer of online learning, actively recommends that his students use emoticons in online learning environments such as forums or chat room discussions. He even provides his pupils with training on how to properly use emoticons. Some tests even show them to be effective in written forms of communication. Ross Pomeroy of states “ In 2010, researchers from Tokyo Denki University used an fMRI to analyze brain activity in subjects viewing emoticons attached to a sentence. They found that seeing an emoticon activates the left and right sections of the inferior frontal gyrus, areas of the brain associated with verbal and nonverbal communication. The left inferior frontal gyrus is also known to be extremely important for language production and verb comprehension.” The same article also mentioned a previous experiment: “Another study, conducted in 2008 by scientists at Open University of the Netherlands, investigated the role of emoticons in ‘computer-mediated communication,’ doing so via a questionnaire and by conducting experimental internet chats. The researchers found that participants used emoticons in an attempt to mimic facial behavior in face-to-face communication. Presumably, this allowed the participants greater control over their expression.”

So whether you use emoticons or not, we may or may not have to make way for them in the future. Languages are always changing and evolving. Could the emoticon eventually be added to the ABC’s another hundred years from now? Who knows, but until then, be happy. :)

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