email conventions

David Muschell dmuschel at MAIL.GCSU.EDU
Fri Aug 6 12:17:15 UTC 1999

There seems to be an attitude that using emoticons has a certain linguistic
disgracefulness attached.  Spending the majority of my writing life as a
playwright, I find I am constantly finding ways to help my actors interpret
a line:

So you like going to school?  (the very ambiguous "emoticon," the question
So you like going to school!  (our oldest emoticon, the exclamation point,
still ambiguous)
So you like going to school !?  (maybe giving a bit more amazement with the

I might underline "you" or "like" or "school" to create the shift in
meaning that I'm looking for.  The ellipsis might be used at the end to
indicate a pause or a thoughtful moment.  A dash might indicate the other
actor should interrupt the first speaker.  All of you know these
conventions used in trying to capture the oral style.  I think letter
writing and, even more so, email writing has a similar sense of voice and
emotion.  Rather than mortification and self-reproach concerning the use of
emoticons, I'm interested in what kinds there are out there and how they're
used (the ":P" tongue-sticking out was new to me).  We've all probably seen
the wink "; )" and the smile and frown.  What are some others?  Is there
surprise:  :-o  or uncertainty  vOv (a shrug sign)  or  outrage :-Z???


At 06:51 PM 8/4/99 -0400, you wrote:
>I passed Erin's comment on to several co-workers, and attach their remarks by
>-- Mark
>   Mark A. Mandel : Senior Linguist and Manager of Acoustic Data
>  Mark_Mandel at : Dragon Systems, Inc. : 617 796-0267
> 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02460, USA :
>                     (speaking for myself)
>     <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
>Rachel Silverman
>08/04/99 06:39 PM
>Well, I've put smileys in, though I usually turn them right way 'round.  And
>when I was a professional proofreader, I'd occasionally use a curly underline
>(in proofreading for publishing, this indicates the text should be boldface).
>But the worst is the Pilot-influenced handwriting things... doing "v"s
>or not putting a crossbar in an "A", for instance.
>     <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
>Jonathan Gilbert
>08/04/99 06:34 PM
>I must admit I have written ":-)" (yes, sideways like that) in handwritten
>to people ... and probably used abbreviations such as BTW, FWIW, etc.  Oh the
>But I do still tend to underline for emphasis, rather than drawing
asterisks ...
David Muschell
Box 44
Dept. of English, Speech, and Journalism
Georgia College & State University
Milledgeville, GA  31061
dmuschel at

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