Use These Emoticons for More Meaningful Messaging

Hand using emoticon keyboard
Dimitri Otis/ Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

While instant messaging and SMS texting can be a strictly text-based experience, casual chats can lack emotional and contextual nuance. For example, have you ever tried to be sarcastic in an email or text message, only to be totally misunderstood? Or has the reverse happen, and your message is taken as sarcasm or tongue-in-cheek when you were completely serious? Word-only communication can fail to convey what we really mean.

Enter the Emoticon

Emoticons are seemingly random jumbles of symbols, letters, and characters, such as colons, one-sided parenthesis and other less common graphemes that may at first be incomprehensible. However, these characters have been adopted as a shorthand used to carry the extra emotional and expressive meanings that text communication can lack. They can provide context, emotion, and clarity to messages that might otherwise be interpreted differently. 

Emoticons can be text-based or even animated illustrations that offer users the ability to share expressions ranging from happiness to a broken heart.

Graphical Emojis

Many instant messaging clients, social media platforms, and SMS messaging apps include a menu of graphical emoticons known as emojis that you can choose from in your messages. However, there was a time when these systems did not have emojis to use, and instead, users had to create emoticons from the symbols and characters available on a keyboard. Some are simple, like the universal smiley emoticon consisting of a colon and a closed parenthesis, while others are quite elaborate and represent more complex meanings.

Traditional Emoticons

Below are listed a selection of the more common emoticons broken into two varieties, Western and Asian-style emoticons. Some can be represented using a variety of different characters and symbols.

To create any of these emoticons, locate the symbols on your keyboard and type them in the order shown—pretty simple. Some of these symbols aren't used regularly in text, and you may not even know the name of them. For example, the ^ symbol is called a circumflex accent but is also known as a caret, up caret, up arrow, wedge, and even a hat. It lives on a standard keyboard above the number 6 key. Some of these may require you to hunt down their keys and are often ones that require using the SHIFT key to type.

Western Emoticons

:) - happy




:( - sad

;) - wink

:/ - doubtful/unsure

:P - sticking tongue out

:O - shocked/scream

:| - expressionless

:S - confused

<3 - heart/love

</3 - broken-hearted

B) - glasses


:} - mustache

xD - laughing hard

xP - disgusted

X( - pouting/frustrated

:*( - crying

:3 - cute/cat-like

:-* - kiss on the cheek

>:O - angry/screaming

:X - sealed lips

0:) - angel/angelic

@)-v-- - rose

O--- - lollipop

Asian-Style Emoticons

(^_^) - happy

(‘_^) - wink

(>_<) - in pain

(<_>) - sad/depressed

(-_-) - sigh

(._.) - depressed

(-_-) zzz - sleeping

(-.o) - black eye

(#_#) - beaten-up

(x_x) - dead

(@_@) - crazy/hypnotized

(o_O) - confused

($_$) - cha-ching!

(*_*) - star-struck

(O-O) - glasses/Harry Potter

<(‘o’<) - ghost

(>’o’)> - ghost

d^_^b - listening to music

t(o_o)t - flipping the bird