On the Proper Punctuation of Emoticons ;)

So, my mother was recently filling out some online forms and called me for the “proper” punctuation of a smiley face: how far did it need to be from the sentence that proceeded it? Did there need to be a space between the colon and the parenthesis, and did she need to include anything else?

Admittedly, my mother is a recently-retired English teacher and, since the colon and parenthesis are both units of punctuation, she assumed that there must be some sort of emoticon rule that she was unaware of. Punctuation is, after all, a major component of grammar.

It got me to thinking – are there “rules” to emoticons? Has some prestigious institution out there written down how a smiley face must be formed to be proper? If they have, I’ve never heard of it.

In fact, emoticons seem to be personal. Whether they require a hyphen nose or not comes down to someone’s preferences, best I can tell. (I’m a no-nose emoticon user myself.) In fact, even more likely than the rules being out there is someone who has sat down and analyzed people’s personalities based on how they put their smileys together. A nose means you’re an extrovert, and not leaving a space between a word/sentence and the emoticon means you live your life in the fast lane, or some nonsense like that.

Will there ever be official emoticon rules? Arguments between nose purists and artsy no-nose types? While it is true that emoticons are pictures and not words, it could be argued that they are as much a part of the communication as the words that they follow or precede. They’re a somewhat desperate attempt to add tone in a world where communication is increasingly digital and meaning may be misconstrued by the reader – a winky face to let someone know you’re joking, a smiley face to soften the blow of harsh words, or an appalled face ( D: ) when no words will come.

What do you think, Squiders? Are there rules to emoticon form? Will there ever be, and will people follow those rules?

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