As is known, an emoticon is a metacommunicative pictorial representation of a facial expression that, in the absence of body language and prosody, serves to draw a receiver's attention to the tenor or temper of a sender's nominal non-verbal communication, changing and improving its interpretation.

Do you think emoticons should be supported by EL&U in order to make more clear comments & answers?

screenshot of several emoticons

  • 6
    I hope they do not become part of SE. Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 5:00
  • 4
    No. Let's strive to write well enough so they are not needed.
    – ab2
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 5:45
  • 4
    Are they not supported currently?😌😓😮😃
    – herisson
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 6:15
  • @sumelic maybe they are suppurted on the mobile version, but I don't see them on the full site. 😆 Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 11:06
  • 7
    How do emoticons make answers or comments more clear? I can't remember the last answer I posted that needed a sweating face, a blush, or cool sunglasses to help my answer. I'm sorry to have a negative opinion about this but, well...there it is. Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 16:07
  • 1
    @sumelic I have to confirm that I don't see these emoticons on my browser either, Chrome, updated to latest version. This is an age-old problem I have on this site, which tchrist is also aware of. meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/4720/… Nothing has changed, I still see little empty squares, since that day.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 18:24
  • @mari-lo, after some years, finally we agree on something, 😘. Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 21:11
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA This is more a question of support by your browser+font+OS combination. There's nothing SE can really do to improve your experience. As for the larger question: since this is a technical issue not restricted to EL&U, it should be raised on [MSE] (but in the interest of honesty, I do not think it will get much traction there).
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 22:36
  • 3
    @Elberich: I've rolled back your edit because changing supported to banned in the title makes a mockery of the voting process here (I'm sure most if not all of the 9 downvotes were from users who disagreed with the premise that ELU should support emoticons). If you don't agree with my action I'm not going to get into an edit war, but I think we would need a separate meta question to decide collectively how the matter should be handled. Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 21:47

3 Answers 3


I think you've mistaken 'emoticon' for 'emoji'. The examples above are small high resolution images that usually involve faces with some kind of emotion, and these images are historically based on emoticons which are sequences of characters resembling facial expressions.

But no matter. The facial expressions expressed by emojis (or emoticons) are somewhat vague. They are officially attached, via Unicode, to labels and definitions and descriptions of what the graphic or character sequence are supposed to mean. But the images without the definitions are somewhat inarticulate. For that reason they are not a reasonable information transfer mechanism (not that writing is either, but at least there's an attempt for writing to be consistent over a longer period).

Even if these particular emoji are consistent in meaning, there's no established teaching mechanism (to help disambiguate), and no established authority about what emojis mean. They were all invented recently, so who knows how long they will last.

However, since emojis may have code points in Unicode, which I fully endorse, I therefore support the possibility of using emojis.

But because of this lack of definiteness, I don't think they should be encouraged with.

Given the changing direction of the title of this question (at the beginning it said 'support' and at this moment it says 'banned' and in the next moment who knows):

  • I do not think they should be banned (if unicode is supported then it would be hard technically to implement, and also it would be a strange desire to ban a communication device)
  • I think they should be technically supported (as much as Unicode should be supported)
  • I do not think they should be encouraged (I think they should be discouraged) because of their frivolous and poor information carrying nature (similar to what I expect our view of emoticons should be).
  • Although I can't fully demonstrate why in the space of a comment, I don't think he's mistaken. Most importantly, emoticons can be pictorial or textual. Look at this leftover cache of the M.S.N. Emoticons webpage for an example. Emoji is just a cute Japanese word for emoticon. In the English anime subculture, we loan Japanese words to distinguish between the origin and style but otherwise there would be no difference. It seems that marketers are trying to capitalize on this without understanding ...
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 19:09

EL&U already supports emoticons. ;-) :-)

  • I need a ELU main question...what's the difference between 'emoticon' and 'emoji'
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 17:48
  • 2
    @Mitch Emoticons are ascii formations, emoji are single characters.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 17:49

There are two similar things here: Emoticons, which are formed using punctuation, and emoji, which are characters.

Emoticon: :D

Emoji: 😃

Both of these are composed using a subset of Unicode characters. The former are traditionally made with ASCII but lately other kinds of emoticons using non-ascii have arisen. The proper display of these things depends, as always, on the reader's computer having the capability to display them. Some Emoji have widespread support and many do not. Example: Sumelic's comment has these emoji:


I can only see the first, second, and fourth. The third shows as a little square in Chrome on Windows 7. (On my Android phone they all appear, looking like the pictures posted in the original question).

We typically do not prohibit people from typing text.

However, we do edit things for tone and content. Thus, an appropriately used emoji or emoticon could actually improve a post. However, like excess punctuation or filler words or run-on sentences or other things, we edit them out when their removal improves the post. Also, if an emoji is widely unsupported, it might be better to replace it with an image, or just leave it out. If, for example, a segment of your post is meant to be humorous or ironic and you convey that using a winking emoji that nobody can see, you've just miscommunicated.

  • I have a hard time seeing those emoji and their subtle differences. Also, I have no idea what they mean.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 20:21
  • @Mitch Their differences are not so subtle on platforms that support them, and their meanings are intentionally ambiguous. Like if I wink at you, what does it mean? Am I kidding? flirting? something in my eye? Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 20:23
  • Also, the original title 'should emoticons be supported? is moot in two ways: emoticons have always been technically supported, since they are made out of characters, and emojis have probably always been supported since Unicode was supported.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 20:29
  • @Mitch I didn't see the original title and agree it's moot, except in that many websites automatically enhance emoji so that they are better-looking and better-supported than what the native browser provides. THAT is something I think SE needn't bother with. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 20:42
  • Agreed. ELU should do absolutely nothing one way or the other.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 22:17

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