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. :)