Please delete those smiley-faces

I hate emoticons. I really hate emoticons.

I think that if you can’t get your message across, (including the way you’re really feeling about what you’re saying) in words, you ought to give up on the English language entirely. Based on some of the e-mails and text messages I’ve been receiving lately, it looks like that’s what a significant portion of the population has done.

Aside from the usual smiles, frowns and winks – intended to say “I was just kidding,” in case I was too dense to figure that out on my own – now there’s a plague of these damn things available to even the most casual e-mail user. This allows the laziest writers to fool themselves into thinking that they’re communicating effectively without actually building an adequate sentence or two.

Emoticons: not only simplistic and sometimes redundant, but possibly even grotesque. Someone wrote me the other day to ask about my cold – thank you for your concern, I thought. But was it really necessary to add the animated emoticon that sneezed green stuff all over the bottom of the e-mail message every two seconds? Not as far as I’m concerned. I fear it’s all part of the general decline in the quality of our written correspondence, and e-mail sure ain’t helpin’. And if I used emoticons myself, I would stick one in here showing sarcasm re: the spelling of the previous two words, because I’m sure it wasn’t already obvious to you, dear reader.

Call me an old curmudgeon, but there are certain things that I will rail against. Lazy writing. Lazy thinking. Emoticons. Baseball hats worn backwards… While we’re on the subject, I think we all agree that wearing a baseball cap backwards not only is entirely without practicality, but also looks pretty stupid. Granted, ties aren’t practical either, but they do look good. Baseball caps worn sideways are even stupider.

But I digress – back to the decline in the general quality of correspondence as precipitated by e-mail: I think I’ve found an ally. A good friend sent me an article from called “Forces of ‘barbaric illiteracy’ too strong.” Sounds great, doesn’t it? Say it with me: “Barbaric illiteracy.” Sounds like the perfect thing to say with a stern look on your face and a snarl in your voice…but I digress again.

The point is that the author partly blames the decline in our ability to write, and therefore communicate, on the same technologies that were supposed to facilitate improved communication in the first place. Oh, the irony…hey, is there an emoticon for that? The author is Lynne Trusse, her book is called Eats, Shoots & Leaves (think about it) and from where I sit, she’s spot on; any book that talks about “the explosion of communication technologies that have allowed punctuation ignoramuses everywhere to deluge others with their poorly organized thoughts” is all right with me.

And Ms. Trusse herself? Be still my beating heart (if I had one) – she writes: “People who don’t know their apostrophe from their elbow are positively invited to disseminate their writings to anyone on the planet stupid enough to double-click and scroll.” God bless English women with liberal arts educations.

Lazy e-mail, horrific punctuation, spam, unintelligible text messages…what’s next? Well, as I write this, I’ve learned the word “emoticon” now passes muster with MS Spell Check. We’re all doomed.

Hanley is an IS professional in Calgary. He can be reached at [email protected]

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