Sometimes this writing stuff is serious business. And sometimes, it’s finally realizing that yes, there is a difference between “emoji” vs. “emoticon.” One of these words somehow even feels a bit “old school” already. Weird, huh?
Is this a writing rule that your past grammar teachers would have been strict about? Probably not. Depending on your age, these words might not have even existed when you had grammar teachers, but with Y2K as my witness, it’s time to get this right.
- An “emoji” is a pictorial image or icon largely used in electronic communications to represent a feeling or to convey an idea in a way other than words, (e.g., 😍 or 📚).
- “An emoticon” is an image, frequently some version of a face, built out of the standard characters available on your keyboard, (e.g., ; ) or : – D ).
There’s a level of playfulness and informality with both emoji and emoticons, so please–important writing tip, folks!—don’t insert either emojis or emoticons into your academic essays or your business resumes. Does this need to be said? Yep, I’ve seen them both places. Please stop that. Seriously. You’re just not helping your own cause. When it comes to emails, there’s a time and a place, sure, but do practice knowing the difference.
Unsurprisingly, these are both modern words. “Emoticon” came into the English language first, a combination of “emotion” and “icon” that was first recorded in 1987. “Emoji” came directly from Japanese, with the “e” sound meaning “picture or drawing” and “moji” meaning “letter” or “character.” Emoji came to English in 1997.
Does your usage of “emoticon” accidentally mark you as not quite with the times? Perhaps. Just know there’s a difference between the two. It’s as simple as this:
Can you see the semicolon in the winky face or not?
Positive (emoticon) or negative (emoji), you have your answer. As for what to do with semicolons beyond winky faces, well… I’ve got a resource for you for that too.
Happy writing, everyone–no matter what form that might take for you!
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