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Emoticons

Emoticons are those cute little faces and gestures that are used in several different types of online communication. The main function of an emoticon is to help convey some sense of emotion that may or may not be apparent in the selection of the words entered into the communication. By using emoticons, it is possible for the writer to convey a clearer sense of the attitude or emotion that he or she wishes to present with the text of the message. Emoticons are often referred to as smileys. The reason for this is that most of the designs for the emoticon are based on the popular round smiling face that became an icon in the late 1960's. Simple in design, various emoticons can be used to convey such diverse feelings as happiness, joy, perplexity, anger, hurt, skepticism, and sadness.

How Are Emoticons Used? Just about any type of online or electronic communication allows use of emoticons. Many people use them within the text of emails, assuming the configuration of the email templates allow the insertion of the characters. The emoticon can be repeated several times for emphasis, or spaced throughout the text of the email, if the sender wishes. Message boards are another common spot to find emoticons. As with emails, the emoticon allows the individual posting a message on the message board to more accurately convey the emotions behind the words typed into the message.

This can be especially important, when the topic under discussion is somewhat controversial, and different posters are sharing a wide range of opinions. Instant messaging and chat rooms are another example of online communications where the emoticon can be very useful. In the one on one world of instant messaging, the use of an emoticon can be a quick shorthand to convey a sentiment. For example, instead of typing out "I love you" in a text message, the sender can opt to use the emoticon that features a beating heart as part of the image. When preparing to end the instant messaging conversation, the user may choose to use an emoticon that denotes a hugging movement, or a kiss.

How Can I Make Emoticons? Keystrokes can be used to create basic emoticons in some instances. This is particularly true with drafting emails. The process usually involves using two or more keystrokes that "tell" the system what type of emoticon to create. It is relatively easy to memorize the basic keystrokes for the most often used emoticons, and key them into the text using this method. With some services, the end user does not have to be concerned with trying to use keystrokes to create various emoticons. For example, in a message board environment, there is often a tray of available emotions.

The user simply uses the mouse to choose an emoticon on the tray, and it will appear in the message. The same approach often works with instant messaging as well. Most instant messaging services include a limited selection of emoticons, but also allow end users to purchase wider selections that help to convey a wider range of emotions.

Tom Paine writes for The Tech FAQ and is the author of articles such as Emoticons, Hidden Emoticons on MSN Messenger, and Use MSN Emoticons.



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