Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why So Serious? :-)

The Evolution of Email Etiquette

Considering the wide usage of internet nowadays, writing emails to your friends and family members is almost as normal as sending them a short text message or leaving messages on their phone mailboxes. It used to be a more formal way of communicating in the old days. It is still is mainly used as a more formal approach in sending messages to colleagues or distant friends, but the etiquette of using Dear Mr./ Mrs. (last name) is only no longer being used in every email. Sending jokes and junk mails are what teenagers nowadays do everyday with their emails, rendering it less reliable for sending important and urgent messages. Some basic protocols are also being forgotten. I personally hate it when people send me emails with all caps or way too many emoticons used interchangeably with their wordings, it is just confusing and hard to read. What is it with the emoticons anyway?

Emoting Icons

There are so many people all around the world speaking and typing different kinds of languages. There is one thing, however, that we can find in every chatroom all over the world. The smileys. Why is this so then? ;)

Let’s us start from the beginning then. Do you know that the smileys were originally used to distinguish serious posts and jokes posted on the message board. Scott Fahlman came with the idea after he had difficulties distinguishing serious posts and frat jokes at the Carnegie Mellon University message board. This is an excerpt of his original message.


Isn’t it amazing how, after more than a quarter of decade after its invention, these three-symbol emotive icons are still being used very widely? Eventhough its functions may have changed very radically, :-( is no longer the symbol for being not serious, but foe being very sad or depressed. And many short-forms have taken over the internet to substitute the use of the smiling face at the end of a joke; some examples which are LOL (laugh out loud), ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing) etc. Putnis&Petelin (1996, p. 297)stated that the time, culture, and personal circumstances in which we live structure our attitudes and values and is reflected through our writings that explains the concept of intertextuality: that all texts contain explicit or implicit traces of other texts. This is one of the reasons why we love emoticons. Most of the times, pictures can say more than words can say.Many modifications have been done to show different kind of expressions and activities. Some of such can be seen in the next image.

This is modernity. Say good bye to the good old clear emails and messages and say hello (with a big yellow grin) to the world of icons picturing your every emotions. =p


1. Davis, A n.d, Emoticons and Email Etiquette,

2. Putnis, P & Petelin, R 1996, Professional communication: principles and applications, Prentice Hall, Sydney.

3. Scott Fahlman, smileypedia, viewed June 14,2010, at

4. Wikipedia 2010, Emoticons, viewed at June 15, 2010,

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