Scott Hollifield: Study gives smiley face a thumbs down

It’s the kind of news that makes emoji lovers shed a cartoon-like tear: A new study suggests a “smiley face emoji and similar emoticons included in work-related e-mails may not create a positive impression and could even undermine information sharing.”

That comes from an Aug 14 news release from researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), who conducted a series of experiments with a total of 549 participants from 29 different countries on the impact of emojis in company emails.

Yep, it’s riveting stuff.

"Our findings provide first-time evidence that, contrary to actual smiles, smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence," said Dr. Ella Glikson, a post-doctorate fellow at BGU. "In formal business e-mails, a smiley is not a smile."

I believe these findings will rock the business world and lead to a plethora new rules governing work-related emails. Coming soon to an inbox near you will be this.

To: All Acme employees.

From: Vice-president of corporate communication.

Subject: New guidelines for work-related emails.

Date: Aug. 21, 2017.


In the past, we have had no formal guidelines on work-related emails, but in the wake of new research on how those emails are perceived, the Board of Directors and I now believe it would be in the best interest of both the company and you, our valued employees, to formulate those ASAP.

Moving forward, please do not use emojis – or cartoon emoticons – in company email. For example, an email this morning from Brenda in accounting – and I am not doing this to single Brenda out, because many of us are similarly guilty – correctly explained that the toilet in the second-floor women’s restroom was clogged and employees should avoid that restroom until maintenance addressed the problem

But, the email also contained four frowny faces, two stinky faces, a plunger and another emoji I will not describe in this memo.

The email itself would have been a sufficient warning without the emojis, given that Brenda also taped a large handwritten out-of-order sign on the door and yelled to anyone who approached the area, “Believe me, you do not want to go in there!” according to several security tapes reviewed by HR.

In addition to no emojis, all employees should refrain from sending emails written in all capital letters. THIS ESPECIALLY APPLIES TO YOU, LARRY. If there is a problem with your caps key, put in a help desk ticket, for crying out loud.

Also, employees should make sure that backgrounds of their emails are not shaded a “pretty” color, making them difficult to read. Because Pam’s note last week about leftover birthday cake being available in the break room was written in a dark blue font on a light blue background, I misread it as a warning that feral cats had taken over the break room, prompting an unnecessary evacuation and an unneeded service call from our contracted cat wranglers.

As a result, our cat-wrangling expenditures are now running 8 percent above last year.

And finally, please remove all inspirational quotes from your work-related emails. Yes, many of us have over the years have enjoyed Gerald’s signature Vince Lombardi offering, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence” or Donna’s gem from Eleanor Roosevelt, “To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.”

But, several people have complained about Steve’s continued use of, “I’ve had it with these ****ing snakes on this ****ing plane!” so in fairness to all, no more inspirational quotes.In closing, thank you for your understanding and cooperation in this important matter. Here is where I would have placed the smiley face if this were written yesterday.

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, N.C. and a humor columnist. Contact him at


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