Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Smiley Face Turns 25--But Isn't Always Appropriate

News flash!The wire services tell us that today, September 19, 2007, marks the 25th anniversary of the origin of the "Smiley Face." You know what I'm referring to. It is :-)

Seems that a Carnegie Mellon University Professor, Scott E. Fahlman, believes he is the first person to have used that symbol, now recognized universally. Soon his new way of indicating a smile spread around campus, then went way beyond the Carnegie Mellon boundaries.

It's easy to understand why the idea spread. Indeed, bright smiles enliven our days and lives. However, in the "Business Writing That Works" seminar that I have presented for leading organizations, I give some news about the Smiley Face that shocks participants: The Smiley Face is not a good idea in business e-mailing.

Why? Because e-mail readers are likely to misinterpret humor in writing. To illustrate, I tell seminar participants that I could see a good friend at the office coffee break, pat him on the back, grin widely, and say, "Joe, you're some kind of an S.O.B." Face to face, Joe would return my grin, and then chuckle good naturedly. However, suppose Joe opened his e-mail and found that same message. Chances are strong that he would react quite differently. . .with rage instead of laughter.

From experience, I can tell you that even with your close friends, :-) carries some risk. They might detect sarcasm, which you didn't intend at all.

Yes, I wish Smiley Face a Happy 25th. At the same time, I'll continue to teach and write about the pitfalls of e-mail humor.

Want more of my E-mail tips? Then read my article, "A Dozen Guidelines for Using E-Mail." Here is the link:

If you think the article will benefit your colleagues, you may reprint with my permission, as long as you include the author ID.

And there's more e-mail advice on the way. Within a few weeks, I will release my new E-book, "E-Mailing Excellence." If you want me to notify you when it is available for purchase online, please send me an e-mail titled, "Excellence," and I'll be sure to let you know. My e-mail address:

Keep on smiling. . .but not in your e-mails.

For more advice about communication expertise, visit my Web site:

You'll find more than twenty free articles there. Also,in the site's "shopping cart" you can order my popular book, The Complete Communicator: Change Your Communication,Change Your Life!


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