Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

Pain in the English offers proofreading services for short-form writing such as press releases, job applications, or marketing copy. 24 hour turnaround. Learn More

Smileys and other emoticons within parentheses

In informal online writing, such as blogs or e-mail, it has become a convention to include an emoticon, particularly a smiley-faced emoticon, to indicate that a comment is not intended to be interpreted literally or taken seriously. Technically speaking, I don’t think emoticons can be considered punctuation, because they generally provide a meaning of their own, rather than simply organizing or emphasizing text. My question is this, when including a smiley-faced emoticon--such as :)--at the end of a side comment in parentheses (dare I provide an example here? :)), do you: allow the closing parenthesis in the emoticon do double duty as a punctuation mark; allow the closing parenthesis of the emoticon run up against the closing parenthesis of the parenthetical statement, creating a doubled chin effect; put an otherwise inexplicable space between the emoticon and the closing parenthesis; or avoid the situation at all costs by rearranging the statement or supplying a different emoticon with a similar meaning (i.e., reword to avoid awkwardness)?

Here are some examples of each of the four solutions I provided:

1. (dare I provide an example here? :-) 2. (dare I provide an example here? :-)) 3. (dare I provide an example here? :-) ) 4. (dare I provide an example here? :-D)

Keep in mind that many programs will substitute the emoticon with an actual image of a smiley face (not that we should ever allow language to evolve to handle quirks of word processors).

Submit Your Comment

Or

Comments

Sort by  OldestLatestRating

I would be nice if all blog sites and fora (forums) allowed the use of graphic emoticons then there would be no punctuation issues.
Maybe Dyske can give us some thoughts on whether or not we can have such a facility on Pain in the English.

Hairy Scot November 29, 2011, 6:21pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Hah, it's funny how much I've thought about this, and I usually thought I was alone in that. When posting messages on various online message boards, I most commonly use example #3, to allow the message board software to detect the ":)" without the final ")" interfering with the image transformation, as it sometimes does.

However, I hadn't really thought about the method #1 (discussed above) before. In the case where the emoticons are not converted into image-based smileys, this should truly be the answer. However, in a system in which they *are* changed into images, then you'd lose your closing parentheses, rendering the parentheses useless.

gdea73 November 29, 2011, 5:52pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

I have yet to find myself in a situation where I felt the need, or even the temptation, to use an emoticon.

Their most common use seems to be to try to put a polite note on a rude statement. Sorry, but that doesn't work. A rude statement remains rude even if you say it with a smile.

I think the subtleties mentioned in some of the above messages will almost certainly go over most heads unappreciated. It may take some effort, but it will be better in the end if you incorporate your subtleties into your text.

fmerton February 9, 2011, 11:02am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

That as new =)

JarodHolmes64 February 8, 2011, 10:53pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Perhaps a guide in this quandary lies in your noting that emoticons are part of *informal* writing, and so perhaps, it just does not matter too much. :-)

I tend to use your option one, while always feeling forced to stop and think about it!

I greatly dislike programmes that automatically convert to graphical smileys; Google Chat's versions are probably the least offensive I know of.

david.lepage March 5, 2010, 5:20pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

good questions. One should go with the option 3 there :)
Thanks

prdpkol January 28, 2010, 8:00am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

A.C. March 17, 2009, 2:08am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

I do what svellabrjotur does above, taking my cue from Chicago pg 442:

[dare I provide an example here? :)]

majormetts February 9, 2009, 5:47am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

This isn't really a problem at all, people are just used to writing smileys the wrong way around. (The correct way has less problems with parentheses (: )

Riah Sahiltaahk September 12, 2007, 4:31am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Excuse for intrusion, but at me not the big question. How you think how many people on the ground smoke and how many have ceased?

virtalex February 19, 2006, 3:53am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Hmm, the spammers could use some help with English...

IngisKahn February 12, 2006, 5:31pm

3 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

Hi! Do not prompt as me to send e-mail? = (

nhhy6654tgf January 21, 2006, 8:37pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Good site. Me very much has liked.

Polok December 25, 2005, 9:51pm

1 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Hi! Who knows still sites similar to this?

Petr December 25, 2005, 4:32pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Hi
As to me to create the same page?

Baliy December 24, 2005, 2:58am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Hi
Good site. It would be desirable to return again and again!

Dori December 23, 2005, 7:45am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

What music prefer?

Steeve November 19, 2005, 12:13am

1 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Hi! What you do today by evening?

Alex November 16, 2005, 9:41am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Four first, then three, then two, and hopefully never one! Of course, you can also use the "left-handed" smilies like speedwell said!

kagomeshuko January 24, 2005, 12:03pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

What sometimes i do is type something after the smiley
(dare I provide an example here? :) dare I provide an example here?) but sometimes i can never think of what to say, so i just space it out a bit or put the smiley after
(dare I provide an example here?) :)

The_Devil August 27, 2004, 6:25pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

I space before and after the text within the parenthesis. This came from using the "::action::" form of describing an action when programs would often change the last two symbols of "(::action::)" into a smiley.

( dare I provide an example here? :) )

harbichidian June 11, 2004, 12:58pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

I triple-space between the smiley and the last mark - to my mind this makes the smily a picture. :)

Anonymous May 20, 2004, 11:46pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

I prefer rewording, personally. svellabrjotur's bracketing is a good idea, but it seems like it might get a little cumbersome...

Not to offend anyone, but I hate graphical smileys, so that's definitely not an option!

Oh yeah, there's always the "anime style" emotes you could use. -_^

thefragile May 20, 2004, 11:21pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

I say go with 3. But, then again, what the hell do I know?

chip May 20, 2004, 4:41pm

1 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Examples of what I type:

1. [dare I provide an example here? :)]
2. [dare I provide an example here? (:]
3. (dare I provide an example here? :})

:} is a somewhat smirk-smile-combination.

zuhead May 19, 2004, 9:03pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

That's a great question.

If I know for certain that the program will substitute a smiley face, I usually use the smiley code plus the close paren, ":))". I don't do this for Microsoft Word, though, because I hate the smiley faces that program defaults to, and it's too finicky to change.

In all other cases I avoid using it at all if a close paren follows.

Another option is to turn the smiley around, "(:" but that's confusing.

speedwell2 May 19, 2004, 3:57pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse