Have you ever received a piece of business communication, either an email or document that contained poor judgement as to the use of exclamation points and or emoticons/emojis? Did it change your perception of the author’s professionalism or perhaps even that of their credibility?
First, a quick distinction between emoticons and emoji’s. An emoticon, short for emotion icon, is a typographic display of a facial representation, used to convey emotion in a text only medium. Emoticons are intended for use in basic text. Emoji are actual pictures and can be used by most operating systems today.
Acceptable at Work?
76 percent of Americans said that they have used emoji in digital communication at work according to the Atlantic. Due to the emergence of collaboration tools and the growing percentage of younger workers, emoji are considered acceptable. However, realize that emojis are not universal. “Even in situations where use of emojis may be appropriate, they don’t always work as intended. The Washington Post reports on a study conducted by the YouGov polling firm that revealed differences of opinion on what certain emojis were supposed to represent. While an emoji may mean “shocked” to one person it may have signified simply “surprised” to another.”
The use of emoji or emoticons requires a judgement call based on the communication style of your department, age demographics of participants and company policy. A good rule of thumb is to mimic the behavior of your audience. However, limit or eliminate the use in the following situations:
- customer communication
- audience behavior is unknown
- job applications or interview communication
State your emotions instead. While mimicking behaviors can be effective, it is still a rather subtle strategy that leaves the potential for emotional ambiguity. The simplest solution to avoid any confusion is to just explicitly state the emotion that you want to relay in your email.
Julia McCoy on Grammarly.com states “You don’t always have to avoid using an exclamation point, but there are some super simple guidelines you can follow. To ensure exclamation success, ask yourself these questions (always) before hitting shift+1 on your keyboard at the end of a sentence.”
- Is what you’re writing very important?
- Is what you’re writing super exciting?
- Is what you’re writing a legitimate emergency?
Is there a limit to how many exclamation points you can use? Yes, one. “We rely on [exclamation points] far too heavily when what we really need to do is go back to our words and try to make them convey more precisely what we’re trying to say,” writes Beth Dunn of HubSpot, a cloud marketing software company. “Don’t ask punctuation to do a word’s job, is what we’re saying. It dilutes your message, makes you look unprofessional, and leaves you with nowhere to go when you actually do need an exclamation mark.”
There are some basics of business writing that you should consider despite your decision to include an exclamation point, emoticon or emoji. Know your audience, be concise and proofread.