Is there a place for emoticons in business emails? I’ve discussed this previously (Emoticons in Business Email). Since then I received several email requests for further clarification.
A Right or Wrong Way to Use Emoticons?
The basic guideline is sparingly and with discretion. Some have argued, that there is absolutely under no condition, a place to have a smiley face or “winky smiley” in a business email. I guess if you want to be a purist you can look at it that way. Time and time again, I always note that each business and corporate culture is different. So not all the guidelines I discuss on this blog are hard and fast rules that every business must abide by.
As with anything, using your better judgment is key. Business Email Etiquette is a set of guidelines — not set in stone rules. Almost any guideline can be broken or bent if it makes sense for the situation at hand, right?
In the case of emoticons I use in my business emails, just one, sparingly and with discretion. Rarely do I use emoticons in first contact. Nor do I use them with those that I prefer to to maintain an über professional tone.
Probably the fact I use them at all is testament to my being an easy going approachable person. While I believe in emailing in an appropriately formal manner, I do not object to a little emotion or personality being shown as relationships grow.
Stick with Positivity
In the case of a frown emoticon, I’ve never integrated that emoticon into a business email. Probably because that emoticon will never be taken in the context meant. It could be perceived as pouty and/or minimizing the topic that one is not happy about. (Plus I don’t frown!)
If an email includes comments I may not be pleased about or agree with, I use my vocabulary to relay any disappointment or discouragement. Come to think about it, I’ve never thought to resort to an frown emoticon.
But I do use a winky (;)) here and there, and here’s why. When I know they are frustrated and I want to show that I understand, I add a winky. In most cases, I use a winky when I am having to correct or coach those I work with about something they were not aware of. By using a winky, I am able to “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.”
Being my main gig is being a consultant and coach, folks contact me all the time for assistance on issues they are frustrated with and intimidated by. Using a winky in an email, when needed to soften a correction or mistake, in my experience has resulted in the recipient then being more open to the correction given.
Statement A — no winky:
If you do not take into consideration the basics of business email etiquette, how can you be taken seriously? My goal and intent is to ensure you make a positive impression!
Statement B — including a winky:
If you do not take into consideration the basics of business email etiquette, how can you be taken seriously? My goal and intent is to ensure you make a positive impression! 😉
Can you see the difference those three extra keystrokes can make?
Do What Works for Your Business
If your business culture is more relaxed or you prefer to show some personality, use emoticons when apropos. If you do not feel that they fit with your business’ level of formality, then don’t. There is a time and place for everything — use your discretion based on what works for your business.