Monday, June 9, 2014

Netiquette - Sarcasm and Emoticons in Email - Via Netiquette IQ

Today's post discusses sarcasm and emoticons. My opinion on these (don't use them!) has been discussed on this blog and in my book, mentioned below. See what you think!

By Dave Delaney, The Tennessean 8:22 a.m. CDT June 9, 2014

Not all email programs translate emoticons, so it’s best to avoid them in business emails. Not everyone understands online sarcasm, and some don't even understand it offline (I feel badly for them). Emoticons are a very normal thing to include in casual online communication. However, not everyone understands that :-) is supposed to be a smile, and ;-) is supposed to be a wink.

Do you use Microsoft Outlook for email? You probably have the popular Wingdings font installed. Your cute smile that you include in your message confuses the pants off the recipient if they use a different email client, because the smile appears as a single capitalized letter "J."

When corresponding in a professional manner via email, it is best to avoid sarcasm and emoticons. Avoid slang, too, because that can really mess things up for you.
I once ran into a problem with my colleagues at a company I worked for. There was confusion over what was needed for an important project. I composed a detailed email to clarify everything, but I made one big mistake.

I meticulously wrote out each step needed for the project in a bulleted email. To be absolutely sure that the team would understand what was needed, I proofread my message multiple times before hitting the send button. My big mistake was how I signed off in the message.
You see, I'm Canadian. My Mum is British. That wasn't a typo; I actually call her "Mum." In Canada and the UK, there is a popular expression that we use instead of saying, "And there you have it." The expression is one that completely messed up my perfect email. I ended my email with, "and Bob's your uncle."

I hit send, and I sat back in my chair with a deep feeling of satisfaction for helping everyone understand what was needed. We worked in an open-environment without walls; I could see some of my colleagues at their desks. Their heads were down focusing on their work. Their email notifications went off as my message arrived in their inboxes. Slowly, their heads began to rise with looks of bewilderment across their faces. Finally, one of them exclaimed, "Who the heck is Bob?"

It was tragically hilarious that I then had to explain what the sentence meant. Not only this, but I had to reply to other colleagues' confused emails to me who were not in the room. Yes, it made for a great laugh, but caused a big disruption in the time we could have been using to finish the pressing project.

Whether you're writing an email to follow up with a person you met at a networking event, replying to a customer, or emailing your boss, do yourself a favor and avoid sarcasm, slang and emoticons. Nobody has the time for long-winded email messages these days, so keep them short and sweet.

In addition to this blog, I have authored the premiere book on Netiquette, "Netiquette IQ - A Comprehensive Guide to Improve, Enhance and Add Power to Your Email". You can view my profile, reviews of the book and content excerpts at:

 If you would like to listen to experts in all aspects of Netiquette and communication, try my radio show on BlogtalkRadio  and an online newsletter via have established Netiquette discussion groups with Linkedin and  Yahoo I am also a member of the International Business Etiquette and Protocol Group and Minding Manners among others. I regularly consult for the Gerson Lehrman Group, a worldwide network of subject matter experts and I have been contributing to the blogs Everything Email and emailmonday . My work has appeared in numerous publications and I have presented to groups such as The Breakfast Club of NJ Rider University and  PSG of Mercer County New Jersey.


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