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Respree

Smileys In Business Correspondence

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I know I have my personal opinion on this, but wanted to hear what others thought.

 

What would you think of an incoming business e-mail that came from a person who did not know (or knew vaguely) that contains smileys (emoticons).

 

Would you think the sender was;

 

* 16 years old

* unprofessional

* displaying an undue (and perhaps unwelcomed) familiarity with the reader

* creating a poor image for his/her company

* just displaying his/her playful personality

 

Big deal or not?

 

Would appreciate hearing some thoughts on this.

Edited by Respree

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A definite no-no.

 

It's one thing in a forum, amongst colleagues you know or friends. However, I would be seriously put off by a stranger making faces at me, whether they are smiling or frowning. Not professional, in my opinion.

 

Miriam

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Guest joedolson

It would depend on the context and the quantity, frankly. A lone "smiley," used in a logical manner during the course of an otherwise well-written and logical proposition wouldn't bother me. I think that many smilies have entered digital dialogues as a means to nuance a statement: indicate a degree of wryness or intent which may otherwise be very difficult to express.

 

But I would consider any extensive use of them to be overly casual and unprofessional. One in a medium-lengthed message; one or two in a long message I can accept, if used reasonably. Every sentence ending in a smiley? Ridiculous.

 

It also would depend on the business proposition itself; although I think I'd have more difficulty pinning that down to specific categories.

 

What would really drive me nuts would be the use of abbreviations: LOL, IMHO, etc. Those, in my opinion, are pretty obnoxious.

 

I tend to judge everything on context, so I'm pretty open-minded on this in principle...

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I tend to agree with Joe -- sometimes a single smiley can pass a bit of emotion that might otherwise be missing (or perhaps: that the writer does not have the ability to express in words - for whatever reason).

 

On the first contact I imagine that smileys might be a bit out of place, especially if the whole message (proposal, etc) was very professional otherwise. However, after the first contact I would not have any trouble with it unless I feel it is someone who is just out to "make friends" so that they can get whatever it is they want from you (I really do not like it when I notice that, smileys or not).

 

John

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mmm, you got me thinking now! When I have a paid listing in one of my directories my response is always :

Hello Joe, your listing is now in place : )

 

http:// the location of the listing.com

 

If we can be of any more help please do get in touch.

 

Regards

David

 

I always thought that was ok - as we try to run our websites on an informal basis.

 

But not so sure now...

 

 

[edit] I use the colon close bracket - rather than an actually yellow smiley.

Edited by rynert

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On the first contact I imagine that smileys might be a bit out of place, especially if the whole message (proposal, etc) was very professional otherwise.

 

we try to run our websites on an informal basis.

 

I think that highlights how smileys are seen, as relatively informal added extras. If the tone of an email is fairly formal, I probably wouldn't expect to see any, regardless of how well I knew the person sending it.

If the tone was more informal, which is clearly less likely for an initial email, though possible, I wouldn't notice it so much.

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Words are just symbols. It's the human mind that gives them meaning.

 

"Dear Sir" and "Yo, Dude!" mean much the same thing, but aren't necessarily interchangeable. Which you choose to use is going to depend on what you want to communicate and, of course, to whom you want to communicate it.

 

Emoticons, too, are just symbols. In my opinion, they require exactly the same choices. Use them, don't use them, it's going to depend on content and audience no less than your salutation.

 

(Having said that, let me add a personal concern. I think emoticons are sometimes a writing shortcut that should better be avoided. It's often easier to add a quick smilie to a sentence than it is to rewrite the sentence, perhaps to make it clearer or less potentially abrasive. However, another term for a writing shortcut is a cliché. An emoticon, like a cliché, usually lacks the power of a well written thought.

 

Sadly, we don't always have time (or need) for a well written thought. :( )

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I think it's unprofessional and it would immediately lower my opinion of the business that sent it to me.*

 

*Disclaimer -

 

I'm a middle aged man, from middle America, who works in a traditionally conservative industry.

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I'm likely to be impressed by competence and persuaded by personality. A boombastically formal email does less for me than some true on-the-level talk.

 

As such it can happen that I experience a well-placed smiley as acceptable. It's a leniency that really has to be caused be the two other factors I mentioned though.

 

In general I don't mind if people keep it real -- but yes, in the end I think that an informal sentence works better than an informal smiley.

 

 

Afterthought afterthought
What would really drive me nuts would be the use of abbreviations: LOL, IMHO, etc.

 

"LOL" is a very natural word to me and I tend to have to be twice as careful not to use it out of the blue. See, "lol" is the Dutch word for "fun", "pleasure", "amusing". When I see or hear "LOL" I still see a perfectly acceptable word, not an abbreviation.

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Guest joedolson

 

Off Topic offtopic

What would really drive me nuts would be the use of abbreviations: LOL, IMHO, etc.

 

 

"LOL" is a very natural word to me and I tend to have to be twice as careful not to use it out of the blue. See, "lol" is the Dutch word for "fun", "pleasure", "amusing". When I see or hear "LOL" I still see a perfectly acceptable word, not an abbreviation.

 

 

An interesting observation --- I suspect that most of the people using the term don't see that, but it does make perfect sense for you. It's a good example of our personal context influencing our perception of others: our knowledges inevitably influence how we perceive what has been said to us.

 

Maybe this isn't really off topic...

 

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It is a case of perception; different people perceive smilies in different ways. Some people as see them as immature/informal, which I can understand. However, as Joe first said, they are extremely useful for adding nuances which can't otherwise be expressed via email.

 

Because different people perceive them differently, I would never use them on my initial contact with someone. However, usually after conversing for a short time, you can judge whether it is appropriate to use them, and whether the recipient is a suitable person to use them with.

 

Having said that; if I received an initial contact from someone, then for me to 'accept' the smilies, they would need to be use very sparingly in amongst a well written email. I say 'well written', as I don't expect everyone to be very formal; I don't think I am with any of my clients beyond the first couple of communications. Informal emails can be well written, and so I guess it comes down to getting the right balance.

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I do business by email for the majority of my work.

 

For newcomers, I never use emoticons.

 

Once I establish a relationship and we get to know each other, by email or by phone, then I take it on a case by case basis.

 

I tend to use smiley's to communicate warmth and approachability. Small/med business owners respond to this well.

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I tend to use smiley's to communicate warmth and approachability. Small/med business owners respond to this well.

 

 

 

That is why I use them in my example above - never had a negative response, only positive :)

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Like you others, I use them very sparingly and only when I've already established a personal relationship with the other person.

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Interesting discussion.

 

My initial thoughts, before any of these comments were posted, was that most people would say it's inappropriate for a first contact situation. I'm wondering if we're somehow a different breed from a lot of people in corporate business, who may not be on the Internet as much as us, are not used to seeing these symbols everyday and, as a result, are less liberal in their thinking.

 

I think it’s true that it may be more acceptable with small business to express more informality than larger ones (case in point, I noticed rynert just signed his correspondence "David."). But just how far can informality extend before becoming just outright unprofessional? It's a subjective and invisible line, I know.

 

I also think that when we write, we create a perception (as Tom mentioned) in the readers mind, like it or not. What do you want the reader of your e-mail (or business correspondence) to think of you? Competent, the consummate professional, reliable, the down-to-earth, let's have a beer type, wild and crazy? A whole plethora of things come to mind. Whatever they do think (good, bad or indifferent) will be created, in my view, by what you say, how you say it, grammar, punctuation, tone and vocabulary.

 

Personally, I think the use of smileys (when 'making' initial contact) shows an undue, and potentially unwelcome, familiarity, sort of like someone calling you "buddy" when you barely know them. That said, if I had made initial contact, and the recipient responded with a smiley, I'd have a someone different opinion; that the walls of unfamiliarity were at the beginning stages of breaking down and that they had some level of comfort in dealing with me.

 

It’s funny about perception. I sometimes do consulting work, and dress in a nice suit and tie. I find that when I dress this way, people (whom I do not know) respond to me much differently, than I had been wearing my typical shorts, t-shirt and tennis shoes. I seem to get more attention, better service at restaurants and stores, and more respect (some people call me 'sir', at which point I immediately turn around and look for my Dad!). Why the big difference? I believe it's perception and think the same holds true with how you write.

 

Thanks for all the comments, guys. More are welcome.

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I think it’s true that it may be more acceptable with small business to express more informality than larger ones (case in point, I noticed rynert just signed his correspondence "David."). But just how far can informality extend before becoming just outright unprofessional? It's a subjective and invisible line, I know.

 

 

I also sign off with simply Regards David, or similar. for correspondance with my homebrew orders - these are real customers, who occasionally have real problems with their order. I take the same tone, I probably include a smiley there as well, when I am saying something like '"Sorry it was broke, but don't worry, I have put one in the post today, should be with you tomorrow : )"

 

I have only ever had really positive responses - so much so, that I find myself building better customer relations (and getting repeat orders) more from people that had problem, that was rectified, than those that had no problem at all!

 

I think far more important than to smiley, or not to smiley, is to use correct spelling, grammar and punctuation, to be prompt and polite, to assume the customer is right, until absolutely clear they are not etc etc

 

Get all the basics right and a smiley can only enhance the relationship. Get the basics wrong, and a smiley can really be a bad move.

 

Well - that is what I have found over the last couple of years!

 

Oh and : )

Edited by rynert

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