Bad news for grammar nazis around the world who shudder every time they see symbols like ‘:)’ and ‘XD’ on their phones — a recent study has revealed that emojis, irregular punctuation, and irregular spelling actually serve an important linguistic purpose!
Published in Computers in Human Behavior in March 2018, the study focused on the difference between digital and verbal communication. “We read text messages in a slightly different way than we read a novel or an essay. Further, all the elements of our texts — the punctuation we choose, the way that words are spelled, a smiley face — can change the meaning,” said lead author Celia Klin in a press release.
These days, it’s increasingly common to find yourself spending time composing and re-reading a simple text message, because we can’t tell how it might be interpreted. With good reason too, because texting can affect your relationships, both personal and professional. That’s why we go for all caps to convey excitement and soften a serious-sounding text with a ‘lol’ or a smiley-face emoji.
This may anger purists, but the findings of Klin’s study revealed how much of an impact even a simple ‘.’ could have on a text message. Klin believes that textisms serve as a replacement for a variety of cues typically found in face-to-face interaction, such as facial expression and tone of voice. Not only can periods be used to signal the end of a sentence in formal writing, their presence (or absence) can give your texts a whole new meaning as well!
To explain further, Klin talked about how irregular spellings like ‘soooo’ and irregular punctuation like ‘!!!’ can convey the sender’s feelings in a much clearer way.
So, When Is Emoji Usage A Bad Idea?
Before you start inserting emojis into every digital communication you send out, you might want to peruse this study, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science in July 2017. It was carried out by researchers from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University, University of Haifa and Amsterdam University and it suggests that smileys are a complete no-no when it comes to formal emails.
Email etiquette is a vital skill that every young professional should master, and this isn’t a bad place to start! The researchers involved some 549 participants from 29 different countries in their far-reaching study and came to the conclusion that although a smile reflects warmth and friendliness in person, a smiley face in an email will have the opposite effect. They noted that people who received emails with smiley faces in them actually had a lower estimation of the sender’s competence and were more likely to send detailed replies to people who sent their emails smiley-free.
“For now, at least, a smiley can only replace a smile when you already know the other person. In initial interactions, it is better to avoid using smileys, regardless of age or gender,” said Dr. Ella Glikson, a post-doctorate fellow at BGU, in a press release.
So the next time your fingers are hovering over the emoji keys, take a second to consider who you’re talking to — that momentary pause will prove very useful!