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Should You Use Emojis in Business Email?

Business email and emoji use.

Is there a place for emojis in business emails? Recently I have received several email requests for further clarification.

Much of this is due to many companies increasingly using emojis in their mailings. Newsletters and promotional mailings, not the day-to-day business communications.

Stats reflect that newsletters or mailings that utilized emojis in the Subject field gain more attention. A 29% increase in open rate. But overuse will also cause your email to appear spammy.

A Right or Wrong Way to Use Emojis

When it comes to daily communications, the basic guideline is to use emojis or emoticons sparingly and with discretion. Some have argued that there is absolutely, under no condition, a place to use emojis in a business email.

I can see where in some fields, professions, and communications that is the case. But, unfortunately, professionalism and formality rule the day, and there is no place for emoji use.

Time and time again, I always note that each business and corporate culture is different. Therefore, not all the guidelines I discuss on this blog are hard and fast rules that every business must abide by.

Using Your Better Judgement

As with anything, using your better judgment is key. Business Email Etiquette is a set of guidelines. These are not “set in stone” rules. Almost any guideline can be bent if it makes sense for the situation at hand, right?

In the case of emojis, I use just one and sparingly in my business email. Rarely do I use emojis during the first contact. Nor do I use them with those that I prefer to maintain a strictly professional tone.

Probably the fact I use them at all is a testament to my being an easy-going, approachable person. While I believe in emailing with the appropriate formality at all times, I do not object to an emoji used or personality being shown as relationships grow.

Nor does it bother me when folks who email me use them. That is their choice, and in these cases, they use emojis to reflect positive emotions. Who could be upset with that?

Stick with Positivity

In the case of a frown emoji, I have never integrated that into a business email. Probably because that emoticon is rarely taken in the context, it is meant. It could be perceived as pouty and/or minimizing the topic that one is not happy about. (Plus, I don’t frown!)

When I receive an email containing comments I disagree with, I use my vocabulary to relay any disappointment or disagreement. But, come to think about it, I’ve never thought to resort to a frown emoji in email.

But I do use a winky-smiley ( 😉 ) here and there. Here’s why.

To reflect, I understand when a client is clearly frustrated, I may add a winky. However, in most cases, I use a winky when I have to correct or coach those I work with about something they were not aware of.

By using a winky, I can “lighten” the correction. This also lets the recipient know that I am providing the information with all the best intentions. Doing so softens my “advice.”

Softening Corrections or Advice

My main gig is being a consultant and coach; folks contact me about frustrating and intimate issues. Using a winky in an email every so often, when needed to soften a correction or mistake, results in the recipient being more open to the correction given.

For example:

Statement A — no winky:

If you do not take into consideration the basics of business email etiquette, the perception of your business’s credibility could be at stake. My intent is to make sure that you make a positive impression.

Statement B — including a winky:

If you do not take into consideration the basics of business email etiquette, the perception of your business’s credibility could be at stake. My intent is to make sure than you make a positive impression! 😉

Can you see how those three extra keystrokes further intimate I have your best interest at heart?

When to use an Emoji?

Here are a few examples of when I will use an emoji/emoticon in my business email communications:

  • When congratulating a contact on an accomplishment or personal event they have shared with me. Adding a smiley adds to the perception that I am truly happy for them by providing that little visual.
  • When I want to make sure that the other side doesn’t take my last comment verbatim or personally. For example, when I coaching a client on something they are doing improperly. I always soften the correction with a positive comment on the benefit the correction will bring followed by a winky-smiley.
  • Sarcasm doesn’t relay at all in email. This is where having a winky-smiley after a sarcastic comment gives the other side a clear indication that you are kidding or poking fun. Without a winky-smiley — they may very well take that comment seriously.

These are just a couple of examples where adding a simple emoticon allows you to soften an email’s tone. For more information on emoticons history, check out the Emoticon Wiki page on the subject.

Do What Works for Your Business

And your market and personality. Take into consideration how well you know the person you are communicating with. Understand the level of formality required.

If your business culture is more relaxed or you prefer to show some personality, use emojis when apropos. If you do not feel that emojis fit your business’s formality level, then do not use them.

There is a time and place for everything. Use your discretion based on what works best for your business.

Go ahead and share!