Using emoticons in business communication

Everybody uses them nowadays: emoticons. But is it wise to use them in business communication as well? Scientists have discovered that you should avoid that.

Emoticons are pictorial representations of emotions by means of an image, a sign or a combination of punctuation marks. On September 19, 1982, Scott Fahlman, computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, typed the first smiley. This is seen as the birth of the emoticon. However, he was not the first to try to express emotions through typography. As early as 1841, lithograph and inventor Marcellin Jobard published an article in which he used an irony punctuation mark.

Expression of emotion enhances sympathy and authority

The core of communication is to convey your message. When people talk to each other, it’s not just words. The whole body is participating. Expression, attitude, voice. As a result, the words gain emotional weight. They become an experience. It becomes easier for the listening party to identify with the story. When the speaker “radiates” self-confidence, the words will also be more easily received. They have authority.

Emotions get lost in indirect communication

With the rise of the internet, the number of authors and stories has increased enormously. However, the quality leaves to be desired. It is extremely difficult to transform written words into an experience. That’s why good writers use many tricks to accomplish this. Story arc, character descriptions, descriptions of sensory observations and so on. But most communications are not novels. Usually we try to send (short) messages.

The emoticon clarifies your intention

Thanks to the emoticon, we can enhance our words in emails, text messages and applets with emotion. This reduces the risk of misunderstanding. In business communication it is very important not to be misunderstood. Your livelihood and (hopefully) your passion will ultimately depend on your success in business. And yet it is advisable to avoid using emoticons in business communication.

Do not use emoticons in business communication!

Research by the Israeli Ben-Gurion University (BGU) indicates that you should avoid that. The use of a smiley in business communication (with a stranger) does not convey a feeling of warmth. A real smile does. Even worse, the use of emoticons causes a reduced impression of authority. It negatively affects the level of alleged competence. Therefore, keep your business communication short, concise and relevant. And avoid using emoticons at all times in business communication. Unless you write an article about emoticons, of course 😉


Richard de Vroede

A perfectionistic Jack-of-all-trades who dedicates all of his passion to his work.