Emoji Etiquette

The world's love affair with emojis is undeniable. From their humble beginnings among Japanese anime fans in the late 1990s up to the present, they have become a ubiquitous part of our communications. In Tweets and text messages, Facebook posts and Snapchat exchanges, advertising campaigns and apparel, blink and you'll miss an emoji (or four).

What is so appealing about these simple-faced icons and their pictographic kin such as pizza slices and flamenco dancers? For starters, they provide an emotional context to text-based messages. In an age where a thoughtlessly deployed punctuation mark can imply sarcasm, gratitude or confusion (witness: "Thanks a lot."/"Thanks a lot!/Thanks a lot?"), emojis provide a more precise shorthand to grasping our state of mind. They are an easy way to convey frustration, affection, exhaustion and more. Which means fewer misunderstood messages—with just a tap of a button. Who wouldn't be a fan of that?

With the impending arrival of 72 new emojis later this month, including ones for "Rolling on the Floor Laughing" and "Shrugging," these adorable creature characters are clearly here to stay. So what are some best practices for emoji use? I spoke on that topic this morning on the Today show. Here are some of my tips for employing emojis considerately:

1. Make sure you've selected the right one for the job
Since they are tiny, it's easy to mistake a crying emoji for a tears of joy emoji, a relieved emoji for a sleepy emoji. The face you use should reinforce your message...not muddy it.

2. Remember that emojis appear different on different platforms
Apple emojis look like distant cousins of Android emojis; Facebook emojis are radically distinct from LG's; Twitter's are not the same as HTC's. When in doubt, stick to the simpler emojis to ensure there will be no confusion of meaning. Case in point is the "Grinning Face, Smiling Eyes" emoji as seen below in various interpretations on multiple platforms.

IMAGE: COURTESY, GroupLens Research at the University of Minnesota

IMAGE: COURTESY, GroupLens Research at the University of Minnesota

3. Avoid emoji overuse...a little goes a long way
Endless strings of emojis with seemingly no meaning but nonsense, or emojis posing as rebus puzzles are best left to children's workbooks. In short, if it doesn't strengthen your meaning, take it out.

4. Use caution with emojis in business
Practicing good business etiquette means keeping an appropriate level of formality—particularly when dealing with a client or the boss. Even with colleagues, exercise emoji restraint, using an emoji only with work associates you know will appreciate the time-savings. If a picture paints a thousand words, go for it.

5. Continue using words
Language exists to be harnessed and let loose, driven and explored. The Oxford Dictionary may have admitted the emoji at the top of this post ("Tears of Joy") as 2015's "word of the year," but civilization moved past hieroglyphics for a reason. Emojis provide us with a marvelous tool for quick chats, but they are no substitute for smart conversation, whether written or face-to-face. :)


 


 

 

Super Bowl Etiquette

Photo by nathan shively via unsplash

Photo by nathan shively via unsplash

As the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos gear up for today's Super Bowl match-up, a series of smaller battles will be unfolding in living rooms across America. Just what will be getting some fans in an uproar? After seventeen weeks of tuning in to watch their favorite teams on the big screen, football lovers suddenly find themselves in the presence of mixed company....house guests who have come for the food, others who are mostly interested in socializing, a cluster who will savor the commercials and still others who care mostly about the halftime show. With so many competing rationales for attending a Super Bowl party, an occasional (if mostly harmless) clash is inevitable. Here to ensure your friends don't throw a penalty flag on your behavior are some goal posts for proper game-watching etiquette:

Dress Down
This is one of the few parties where dressing your best is discouraged. Pull on a football jersey, a pair of jeans and some sneakers, and you'll be good to go. Neckties not welcome.

Holding
You'll be doing a lot of eating at a Super Bowl party, and certainly some drinking, too. Pull your weight and ask the host what you can bring. Don't show up expecting to be fed without bringing something for everyone else to share.

Delay of Game
Apart from an Oscar party, a Super Bowl soirée is the only social gathering where a television set should be front and center. As a result, arriving after kickoff is akin to walking in late to a movie...it's disruptive to the other guests who are already glued to the game. Get to the party on-time, say your hellos and take your seat. Which leads us to:

No Seat Interceptions
The chair you chose when you arrive is yours for the duration. Your popping up for food during a commercial break is not license for another guest to steal your seat.

Instant Replay
Unlike key plays on the field, the commercials don't get an instant reply. Since for many of us, watching the ads is just as much sport as watching the game, guests should keep quiet during the commercials. And have the tissues handy, as some of the ads can be downright weepy.

Offside
Lurking by the food table, preventing others from easy access to the chips, dip and submarine sandwiches is just as likely as any of the behavior on this list to get you tackled. Take what you want (leaving plenty for others, of course) and move along.

Interference
The rule during halftime is the same as during game time: down in front. If you're not interested in the halftime show, don't ruin it for others by talking during the performances or standing in front of the screen.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct
With all ages likely in attendance at a Super Bowl party, adults should mind their language--no matter how frustrating a referee's call might be. Keep your comments clean, and remember: at the end of the day, it's just a game.

Encroachment
Don't crowd the scorekeeper who's minding the boxes in the betting pool. Let him or her do his job, announcing the winners at the end of each quarter. And if luck is not with you, accept your gambling defeat graciously.

Out of Bounds
It's a Sunday night and most of us will have jobs (or school) to get to in the morning. So once the game is done, make sure to help clear up and then be prepared to clear out. Don't overstay your welcome.

Follow these guidelines and you'll score an etiquette touchdown. Enjoy the game everyone, and may the best team win!


 

Time to Put Pen to Paper!

 

The photo at right says it all. At one time, this box surely brimmed with letters, correspondence that chased its way downward through the floors of this downtown Manhattan office building before coming to rest in the lobby, ready to be sped on its way by an employee of the United States Postal Service. And today? Whitewashed. Barely legible, the words: "U.S. MAIL LETTER BOX." Painted over like a poster for a film that left the theaters many seasons ago.

When was the last time you hand-wrote a message to someone you love? If you’re like most, it’s been a long while (if ever). In our era, email has endangered eloquence; emojis have enfeebled expression. And yet, if you believe the hand-written note has outlived its usefulness, I urge you to reconsider. In a time marked by Tweets and texts, #TBTs and TTYLs, there is no better way to convey sentiments that will endure than by putting them down on paper.

With this in mind, and just in time for National Card and Letter Writing Month, I've partnered with the Hotel Hugo in New York City on a 30-day campaign to promote the penning of truly meaningful messages. After check-in, guests discover in their room a set of complimentary, custom note cards. The hotel and I are encouraging guests to think of a special person in their life, put their thoughts on paper, seal the envelope and bring it to the lobby, where the hotel will mail the correspondence for free anywhere in the world.

Though you may not be staying at the Hugo, you can still take part in the campaign. Write even one note this month and rediscover the joys of expressing yourself on paper. If you're feeling rusty, never fear. Here are my top tips for creating a keepsake that’s cherished…for all the “write reasons,” of course.

special edition Forever stamp issued by the usps to commemorate national card & letter writing month

special edition Forever stamp issued by the usps to commemorate national card & letter writing month

 1. Penmanship counts. (And so does your pen.) In fact, the two can be closely linked. Find the implement that allows you to write as neatly as possible. Too inky and you’ll get blots. Too greasy and you’ll leave smudges. With a porous card stock, a fountain pen can be very elegant, though a felt-tip pen may provide cleaner results. Skip the ballpoint entirely, and if your handwriting is just a shade above legible, consider printed- rather than cursive lettering.

 2. Blue is not the new black. Ink the color of ebony is the appropriate choice for a formal note card. Eschew the blue and whatever you do, avoid red at all costs.

 3. Be a dear. Date the card in the upper-right and start off with a salutation; invariably this will be “Dear” or “Dearest”…you’ll have more options when it comes to the complimentary close. (See below.)

4. Get your messaging down. Consider composing your note on a computer first and transcribing it to the note card second. This allows you to find the most appropriate wording without ruining precious paper in the process. You can also run a spell-check before committing, thus avoiding unsightly cross-outs. Make your message matter by being as descriptive and expressive as possible.

5. In closing. Select a complimentary close that suits your relationship with the recipient. This is also your chance to show more flourish. Some suggestions: Affectionately; Thinking of You; Love Always; Your Friend Forever; Devotedly; Gratefully Yours; With Deepest Thanks. And don’t forget to sign the card…first-name only unless the recipient won’t know you from your given name alone.

6. Stamp of individuality. Place the card in the envelope right-side up, with the front of the card facing the flap. Hand-addressing is a must—in the same ink you used for the note. Stick to a real postage stamp (as opposed to a printed label or meter imprint). Skip the ubiquitous USPS flag stamps unless the intent of your note is to be patriotic. Instead, enhance the theme of your card with a stamp appropriate to the message you’ve written. Last but not least, don’t forget to include your return address, which—if you’ve played your card right—will spur and facilitate an equally treasured reply.

 

Easter & Passover Etiquette

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Easter and Passover weekends are here. Do you have your bonnet ready? Have you baked a batch of hot-cross buns or saved a chair for Elijah? Whatever your traditions are this holiday, there are sure to arise some etiquette quandaries. To assist you with those questions, here are some scenario-saving suggestions usable this weekend and all the year through. For more of this advice, have a peek at my segment this week on the Today show with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb.

SO IF YOU ARE HEADING TO EASTER OR PASSOVER DINNER THIS WEEKEND ... SHOULD YOU ALWAYS OFFER TO BRING DESSERT OR A SIDE ... OR IS A BOTTLE OF WINE OR FLOWERS ENOUGH?
Any time you are invited to dinner at someone’s home, you should always offer to assist the host by bringing a food dish. If the host declines, you can still bring something—just don’t make it a scene-stealer, which will detract from what the host has prepared. In the case of Passover, if the household you are visiting keeps kosher, make certain not to bring anything into the home that is not sealed and marked kosher for Passover.

In all cases, you should always bring something for the host to enjoy well after the party is over, such as a nice bottle of wine or a potted Easter lily.

AND AS THE HOST -- IS IT EVER OK TO INVITE SOMEONE OVER, AND THEN SAY, "HEY COULD YOU TAKE CARE OF THE SALAD??
A host should always have a ready answer for the question “What can I bring?” If the guest does not ask, and the host needs some help with the menu, she could ask the guest, “I’m wondering if you’d be able to bring that famous Waldorf salad of yours that everyone loves so much?” Don’t ask the guest to bring the main course or something that is out of the ordinary or out of his or her regular recipe routine.

LET'S TALK ABOUT SEATING -- DO YOU PREFER ASSIGNED SEATS WITH PLACECARDS -- OR SHOULD IT JUST BE A FREE-FOR-ALL AT THE TABLE?
Depending on the size of the gathering and how formal you want to make this party, place cards can be a nice touch. They are especially handy if you’ll be having guests who spend much of every meal arguing. This way, you can seat them as far apart as possible.

WHAT ABOUT DESSERT -- SOME PEOPLE SERVE IT IMMEDIATELY, BUT YOU MIGHT NEED A BREATHER!
Most certainly give yourself and your guests a bit of a break before dessert. This is a great time for a walk, a game (whether an outdoor sport or a board game) or—if you haven’t done it already—an egg hunt, which will allow everyone to work off the meal a bit. For anyone whose sweet tooth can’t wait, I like having a selection of jellybeans set out in colorful dishes around the family room at the beginning of the party.

THEN THERE'S CLEAN UP-- A LOT OF TIME AS THE HOSTESS, YOU'RE EAGER TO CLEAR PLATES, GET THE DISHES GOING IN THE KITCHEN, BUT THEN YOU’RE SORT OF ABANDONING YOUR GUESTS ... WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST?
Unless you are having your meal catered, there’s not much getting around the fact that the host or hostess is going to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. And clearing the plates is an important part of preparing for the next course. But once the last course has been served, the host should take a break from the kitchen and spend any remaining time with his or her guests. Any additional cleanup can be done after the last guests have left.

AND FINALLY, AS THE NIGHT WRAPS UP ... BUT PEOPLE ARE STILL LINGERING... HOW DO YOU POLITELY INDICATE THE EVENING IS OVER??
You don’t want to rush people out, but once dessert has been served and coffee has been consumed, a line like “We have so many leftovers…what can I give you to take home?” is a nice way to suggest to your guests that they must start rustling. If they don’t take that cue, enlist the services of a sibling or other close family member to start the exodus with a line such as “I know we all have work and school tomorrow and Sarah has been cooking all day. We should head home so she can get some sleep.”

A Farewell to Facebook?

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This week, a reader wrote to me, asking:

I find people are increasingly posting what I feel are inappropriate comments and pictures. My kids are on Facebook and they do not post these kinds of things or act this way so I guess I just don't know how to handle adults and other young adults who do feel this is appropriate. I am to the point of just shutting down my Facebook. So my question is do I just ignore this behavior or do I post a notice that I have decided to shut down my Facebook or just shut it down without saying anything?

Here's what I suggested....

The decision to leave Facebook is a personal one, of course. I appreciate your frustration with inappropriate or simply annoying posts on social media. And certainly, the upside of bidding farewell to Facebook is no more swaths of time gobbled up scrolling through your news feed and the attendant serving of seemingly endless ad drivel. The unfortunate consequence of leaving Facebook, however, is a shutting down of a pipeline that also contains welcome or important news you might not hear of otherwise. For many of us--me included--Facebook is a lifeline to longtime friends and distant family members whom I don’t often--or in some cases, ever--get to see. So I recommend the following:

1) If there are particular offenders who are also good friends of yours, I’d have a private word with them, explaining in a gentle way that occasionally, you have found their posts to be a bit offensive, and you wonder whether others might be feeling the same way. Encourage them to consider carefully anything they post, knowing that once it is out in the ether, it is difficult--if not impossible--to expunge. If they ignore your advice, follow the second part of tip # 2, below.

2) If the offenders are only casual acquaintances, you might consider “hiding” their status updates. What’s nice about this option is that you don’t need to unfriend these individuals entirely; you will simply cease seeing their updates (offensive or otherwise). If you hover over the right downward arrow next to their post, a box will appear that will allow you to stop “following” this friend. Again, the “friendship” remains intact. (See photo.) Your contact will be none the wiser.

3) If the offenders are casual acquaintances and are being truly awful, the time has likely come to unfriend them entirely. No explanation needed. They are not worth your attention.