We decided it was high time there were usage rules for emoticons, contacted The Chicago Manual of Style, and are very, very pleased that our entry is making the next edition*.
6.99 Emoticons. Expressive punctuation to denote happiness, friendliness, teasing, anger, or sadness is communicated using a variety of letters, numbers, and symbols. Although experts are still undecided on the inclusion of noses, for example :-) versus :) or even : ) (and the less common and far more polarizing use of the "bubble nose" such as :o) or the aggravatingly off-center :0) and their ilk), most agree that, used in the correct circumstances, emoticons are an acceptable substitute for more accurate and expressive language. These circumstances are only in the most informal of written communication. For example, within a blog post or an original tweet, an emoticon should never be used. The writer should be able to express themselves adequately without resorting to an angry face >: (. However, when responding to personalized tweets or comments on the blog post in question, an emoticon as emotional shorthand is perfectly acceptable.
The other day my downstairs neighbor made the trip up to inform me that my children's habit of walking on her ceiling was simply unacceptable. Needless to say, I was a little pissed off.
Note: no emoticons were necessary or appropriate in the post itself. But an acceptable comment would be:
Mean people suck : (
To which the original poster could then reply:
I know, right? ; )
The use of the "winking" face indicates that the commenter is no longer angry and has a playful sense of humor about the whole thing, and is much easier than saying, "I know, right? But don't worry, I am no longer angry and have a playful sense of humor about the whole thing now."
Note: Emoticons are especially useful when delivering short "thank you" tweets, making them seem friendlier and less formal. Emoticons are also highly valued when delivered in the margins of an editorially reviewed manuscript.
So there you have it. Usage rules for emoticons!
I know. You wish you could sleepover and my house, too! Tomorrow night I might write an entry on the most effective uses of "Dude."
*That's not actually true. But it ought to be.