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Is using emoticons in business emails considered unproffesional?

David Emin Defiantly thinks so! In an answer to a reader’s question, Emin said:

To some of us older generation, emoticons are often considered a bit of an enigma.

The reader apparently has sent an email to his boss, and signed off with a wink. His superior immediately emailed back an said that his email was unprofessional. Emin said that despite’s emoticons function as a way to express emotions and feelings in text messages and web forums, business emails are not the places for these means of communication:

it is not always obvious to the recipient of the message what is actually meant by a particular emoticon.
I used to get e-mails from a certain individual who would always sign off with (_x_). I used to think this was a term of endearment until someone pointed out this actually meant “kiss my arse”. Needless to say, I was not impressed.

Obviously Emin is right that not every email is suitable for emoticons. I can think of quite a few examples where emoticons would be very distastful:

  • You are fired :)
  • Just got married, ah? How is your wife in bed? ;)
  • I think your presentation sucks, but don’t worry – you’ll do fine in our company. <3

Seriously though, age and culture would be the main criteria for choosing whether or not to use the wonderful art of text smileys. If you are not sure about your recipient, don’t assume anything – be formal and polite. That’s a general good rule in business. At other times, using text smileys or even graphic cool smileys can be a great way to soften a tough to swallow message.

By the way, people who use smileys come in all colors and ages. See these smiley statistics for more.

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