What are Emoticons? - Definition, Examples & Quiz
Find out what emoticons are, and how to create them. Learn what the different emoticon symbols mean. Read the lesson, then take a quiz to test your new knowledge.
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You've most likely seen emoticons (also known as 'smileys'), but might not have known they had an official name. An 'emoticon' is a small group of symbols arranged to show happiness, sadness and other emotions. The word 'emoticon' is a portmanteau, a term combining two words to create a new one: 'emotion + icon'. In the impersonal world of electronic communication, emoticons give us another way to share our feelings and clarify our meaning.
There's some dispute about who invented emoticons, but one of the first people to use them was Scott Fahlman, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. On a discussion board in 1982, he proposed a series of facial expressions using colons, semicolons and parenthesis and these are in common use today.
How to Create Them
Emoticons can be created using the symbols and letters on your keyboard. Generally, emoticons look like human faces, placed sideways. However, many smartphones, email programs and online forums have massive emoticon libraries with colorful cartoon smileys and other shapes, many that move like two-second films.
Emoticons in Action
Emoticons are usually placed at the end of a sentence for emphasis, like these text messages:
- Let me know when you're ready :-)
- I can't believe I got sick this weekend :-(
Even though thousands of emoticons have been created, a few are common to most of us. For example:
Smiles :-) or :o) or :)
Angry >: <
Tips and Warnings
Emoticons are used in informal communication, such as instant messaging, text messaging and personal emails. Emoticons should be left out of all professional or academic writing, and using them too frequently tends to overwhelm your message; it's best to use emoticons sparingly.
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