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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).

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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

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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

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

chip May 20, 2004 @ 4:41PM

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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

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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

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

nhhy6654tgf January 21, 2006 @ 8:37PM

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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

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

prdpkol January 28, 2010 @ 8:00AM

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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

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That as new =)

JarodHolmes64 February 8, 2011 @ 10:53PM

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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

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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

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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

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