Occasionally, you’ll see blog posts, Tweets, and various miscellaneous website content peppered with them: smileys. Sometimes they take the form of frownies, sometimes it’s winking faces, and every once in a while, you encounter the dreaded ‘lol.’ (Okay, so that one’s not technically an emoticon, but it falls into the same grouping of modern linguistics, as far as I’m concerned.) The point is, emoticons have become as ubiquitous as metal breast plate connoisseurs at a Xena convention.
Yes, social media content writing and its slightly older counterpart blogging are still relatively new animals, whose vast potential is rapidly being untapped and discovered more and more with each post. And arguably, there’s something to be said for the ways in which the social media revolution has eliminated a need for formality. After all, any yahoo with a basic Internet connection (and, well, a Yahoo email account) can Tweet and blog to his heart’s content, but this of course makes the task of sorting wheat from chafe that much more difficult.
Which brings me to my initial point: emoticons. Or, namely their use. When it’s appropriate, when it’s not. In general, the inclusion of smileys into a blog post of any caliber is usually enough to lessen my ability to take the post (and by extension, the poster) very seriously. With Tweeting, the practice can be a bit more appropriate, but should most certainly be used as sparingly as possible. Think of smileys and Internet slang as a couple sprays of Curious, Britney Spears’ signature scent. A few dabs here and there can accent and augment your posts – particularly if you happen to be posting something that might be of dubious interpretation. Think of all the times you Tweeted something that was meant to be funny but, due to the nature of non-verbalized wording, was perhaps misinterpreted by someone. In that case, emoticons are good for clarifying your intent and letting your followers and readers know that, hey, this is meant to be funny, or this is meant to be kinda-salacious-but-not-really.
Example: “I never meta tag I didn’t like. :)”
Or: “I’m trying to get my blog content up, but I think all the drinking I did is preventing it. ;-)”
However, as we gracefully return to the scent de Spears analogy, you will of course want to exercise some caution on your use of emoticons on Twitter. As with anything that deviates a bit outside the norm, a little can quickly go a long way. A good rule of thumb is to keep your emoticon and Internet vernacular use limited to posts that are generally informal (a conversational post, as opposed to a content, business, or links post). And again, you can always make ample use of smileys in posts where intent could be seen as ambiguous.
Blogs conversely, should be regarded with a slightly altered set of standards when it comes to emoticons. As I said, I’m loathe to regard blog posts riddled with smileys on any kind of serious playing field, and I have to imagine that many of my fellow ‘net junkies express similar sentiments. The same goes for LOL, ROFL, LMAO, WTF, OMG, and any other of a plethora of Internet acronyms in regular rotation out there. If I see these in a blog post, I will probably end up LOLINRLing (laughing out loud in real life), but definitely not for the reasons you were hoping for. If I had my way, I would speed dial Al Gore and request that emoticons and shortened slang be prohibited from casual use in all blogs, but seeing as how Mr. Gore isn’t likely to take my calls, I will say this: if you MUST use informal linguistics in your blog, keep it light, simple, and besides the primary point. Emoticons should only register as the barest of afterthoughts, and certainly not as an integral centerpiece to whatever it is you’re posting about. If you can work them in as a form of self-commentary, all the better. Again, here’s a short example:
“Over the weekend, I traveled down to Lake Woebegone for some fun in the sun with my dear friend Garrison Keillor. Garry told so many amusing anecdotes, as he’s wont to do, that I frequently found myself making this face: :-D. Of course, as you can imagine, there was much LOLing to be found, too.”
“It was truly a wonderful weekend. I’ve been given so much to reflect on, and feel that I am blessed in so many extraordinary ways. Sometimes, when I’m in the throes of a Keillor conversation, I just feel so… happy. :)”
Now, to review: emoticons can be cute, and are something unique to the internet revolution, but don’t rely on them to say what can’t be said with real words. And rarely are they appropriate for website content. If you find yourself not expressing your thoughts as meaningfully as you’d like, try running your work through the editing process before sticking a smiley at the end of it. You’ll wind up appreciating the little extra kick an emoticon can bring to a post a lot more if you delegate its use to special occasions only.
This post was written by Emma, our social media content manager. If you would like to have her work on your social media campaign, touch base with us via firstname.lastname@example.org and we will hook you up!
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