Just say :-(

I remember the first time I saw it at the end of electronic correspondence. A colon, a hyphen, and a closing parenthesis--positioned in just that order at the end of a sentence.

"Odd," I thought to myself. It surprised me that Betty Jo, the office perfectionist, would miss such an error and allow her message to go out to the entire department. However, given that I failed a typing class in high school and my own keyboarding ability was far from perfect, I decided to ignore Betty Jo's faux pas. We all make mistakes.

Later that afternoon I drudged through the numerous items in my Inbox. As was usually the case, almost none of them were directed specifically to me. I was the victim of all those folks who insisted on hitting Reply All to a group e-mail, even though the content of the reply is inconsequential to the members at large.

"Interesting info, Betty Jo! Thanks for sharing. :-)," said one reply.

"I'll take this home to read tonight. I have had trouble sleeping. ;-)," another noted.

Aside from the fact that I was annoyed with the no fewer than 15 meaningless e-mails cluttering my Inbox, the amount of typographical errors in each bothered me even more. Perhaps Betty Jo's ":-)" hadn't been a careless mistake after all. Maybe, just maybe, our company e-mail server had caught one of those new viruses that I'd been reading about in the trades. I showed the e-mails to my supervisor.

"Oh, those are just smiley faces," she said.


I didn't see a face; I saw punctuation marks. Then, I stared at the figure, the way you would at one of those funky, hidden, 3-D illusions, in the hopes of seeing the smiley face amidst the punctuation wreckage. My supervisor saw me struggling and pointed at the screen.

"Here are the eyes, the nose, and the mouth," she said.

"Uh...ok. I see it." I tilted my head as far sideways as I could and caused a crick in my neck.

"But what about this one?" I asked pointing at the semi-colon.

"That's a winkie face. It lets you know that writer is just teasing," she answered.

It wasn't as if I didn't understand the concept of smiley faces once given an explanation. Still, I felt as though I'd entered a whole new world of communicating, like e. e. cummings on Ecstasy. Never would I have imagined that an entire array of emotion could be expressed by the clever misuse of punctuation rather than having to depend on words to convey a sense of tone and intent.

A true believer in breaking rules, grammatical and otherwise,I was hooked. And before too long, I looked for opportunity to use the smiley face in my own e-mails. I also remember being absolutely thrilled when Microsoft Word began featuring automatically-generated emoticons in place of the punctuation marks.

But lately, I'm beginning to rethink my position on smiley faces. And, to be honest, I think this whole emoticon thing--especially in a professional setting-- is getting out of control. In my office, the abuse of emoticons has become a serious issue because people either use them too much or, even worse, in an insincere manner not befitting the emoticon spirit.

One coworker, in particular, is the worst of emoticon offenders. No matter what the content or context of her e-mails, she always ends her sentences with an annoying ":+)." Sometimes, she even tries to hide her dissatisfaction or anger by disguising her emotion with ":+)." The tactic comes off as being patronizing. Although I do worry that, much like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome surged after prolonged and inappropriate use of the mouse, she might be exhibiting a new health hazard caused by overuse of emoticons--a nervous tick or the Turret's Syndrome of e-mail composition.

Barring chemical imbalance or some new illness induced by the overuse of emoticons, I'm beginning to think of how I might make a point with my annoying coworker.

I might have to anonymously and emoticonically moon her (_l_).

Perhaps, giving her the finger _|_ might be a more appropriate response?

Or would it be better to challenge my coworker to a emoticon dual-- her silly, clown-like :+) to someone more sinister like Adolph Hitler (\:=).

What do you say? :-0 How should I handle this most annoying situation?


David said...

You could flash her. . .

( o ) ( o )

I used to have an email that had all sorts of these things in there. Wonder who thinks them all up?

Siryn said...

There is always "eat a 8====)"

Grins said...

I use them often when emailing with friends. But in work related coorespondence? No way. One client replies with them though, even writes Hugs in front of it. This is not a young girl, but rather a woman that is in a successful position. It just seems...odd.

Senior Advisor said...

You don't know how much I needed to read your post tonight.

Laughter through the frustration and insomnia (3rd night in a row).

Given the new emoticons I've learned about through you, David, and Siryn, I may have to rethink my total disdain for them as a form of communication. Perhaps they are the only way to get through to a writing-challenged person such as O.D.F.

Thanks chica!

KOM said...

I'm more than a bit confused about emoticons myself.

As a matter of fact (please forgive me), I wrote a post quite some time ago about just this issue.

I still maintain that emoticons are a crutch, but so are many, many other things ;)

utenzi said...