Remember the days when kisses and hugs displayed affection at the end of hand-written letters? XXX OOO

Then came smiley faces with a circle, two dots for eyes, and curvy mouth, maybe even a dot for the nose. Hugs were shown as parentheses: ((((  ))))  They still are!

With online communication, showing mad, sad, or glad emotions has become sophisticated, expressed graphically as emoticons which can be divided into three styles, western or European, Asian, and a two-channel style which includes Japanese. When I write an email message, I can choose from these icons shown below. Just hover over the desired icon, click on it, and I can be cool, with glasses, cry, feign innocence, wink, claim my lips are sealed, ask for money, even YELL (last icon).

email Emoticons


Facebook has even more choices: Confusion conveyed here!

 Confused Emoticons

Some Facebook icons are called stickers. And they are large and sticky! If perchance, you click on one of these, the emoticon swells to a one-inch size, gobbling up your text. I have learned to refrain!

If you want to get really fancy on Facebook, Beep the Meep is available, a fictional alien who appeared in the weekly comic strip Dr. Who Weekly.

HAPPY emoticons

If felines are your friends, by all means click on Pusheen the Cat, a roly-poly character in an animated comic series.



Author Angela Ackerman has commented on how writers can use words so they appear as pictures in readers’ minds in her book, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Emotional Expression co-written with Becca Puglisi. The Amazon overview says this about her guide:

One of the biggest problem areas for writers is conveying a character’s emotions to the reader in a unique, compelling way. This book comes to the rescue by highlighting 75 emotions and listing the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each. Using its easy-to-navigate list format, readers can draw inspiration from character cues that range in intensity to match any emotional moment.

In other words, show in graphic detail that your character is angry, don’t announce it, easier said than done.

Blogger A. Piper Burgi has posted more vivid word choice suggestions for writers in a recent blog post entitled Increase Your Emotional Vocabulary.

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What do you think of the emoticon craze online? Is it right down your alley or do you think the icons are goofy or fake?

If you are a writer, what are your secrets to conveying emotion with words?

Bonus: A curious story: The man with a frozen smile  (Jonathan Kalb, “Give Me a Smile,” The New Yorker, January 12, 2015)


Coming next: Acquainted with Grief: Author Elaine Mansfield Speaks