For most of us, there’s a world of difference between the written word and the spoken word. Where the written word is formal, the spoken word is colloquial; and this as it ought to be–audience matters. Of course, the spoken word isn’t merely word. It’s also facial expression, physical gesticulation, intonation, and apparent emotion. If I want to use sarcasm, it’s indicated by my tone of voice. If I want to playfully tease a friend, my eyes give away the fact that I’m not a mean-hearted jerk. And if I need to ask a subordinate to work on a given task, I can sweetly and gently ask if she wouldn’t mind getting started on her project. Attempts at writing the very same thing out have the annoying habit of coming across as accusatorial, bossy, or otherwise catty.
That’s where emoticons come in. While I certainly do not consider myself an emoticon apologist, I concede that there’s a time and a place.
That time and place? Any time when it would be far preferable to communicate via the spoken word, but when, due to circumstances (including laziness), speaking face to face is not feasible. E-mail communication, web forums, texts, and facebook messages are all examples of less-than-stellar substitutes for speaking in person.
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