By Annabel Monaghan
Pullquote: < “I’ve been battling the exclamation point for years.”>
I had a story I wanted to tell recently that I didn’t know who to tell, so I posted it to the Rye Moms group on Facebook. I went right into Facebook and started typing away, and in two minutes the story was told. I marveled at how much easier that was than writing a story for publication. It felt just like typing a text to my sister, which was exactly the problem: Like a text to my sister, it was full of emojis.
An emoji is a lazy writer’s friend. When it was first a thing, my friends and I used that innocuous little yellow happy face a lot. It was a friendly addition to whatever you’d written, adding a sunshiny ring to your text. Things escalated, and that happy face gave way to the crying laughing emoji that I am so guilty of overusing. A crying laughing emoji is there to tell the reader that what you just expressed is meant to be very funny, saving the writer the trouble of actually having to be very funny. It’s like explaining your own joke. You might as well insert the laugh track from “Hogan’s Heroes”.
Just as the Ha Ha begot the LOL, and the LOL begot the crying laughing emoji, the latest Apple update has given us the crying laughing while tilting your head dangerously to the left emoji. It’s as if someone was laughing so hard that she broke her neck. This has never happened to me in real life, yet here I am throwing that emoji around like I’m actually dying laughing. If that’s not a cry for help, I don’t know what is.
That one little character is shorthand for: “That is the absolute best use of humor I have ever seen in writing. In fact, I’m concerned for my health after having read it.” In that sense, this emoji also constitutes a lie.
Similarly, the wacky (winky face with the tongue out) emoji is there to tell the reader that what you are saying is intended to be a bit ironic, saving the writer the trouble of actually being ironic or even grasping irony as a concept. I hate to say it, but I use that one a lot too. Apple has just taken this one a step further by releasing a new wacky face that includes both a hanging tongue and a left eye that is bulging out of its socket. I mean that’s dangerously wacky.
The other crutch that seems acceptable in texts and email, but not in published work, is the exclamation point. I’ve been battling the exclamation point for years. I have a habit of ending emails with one, in an effort to end on a high note. “See you then” is not as friendly as “See you then!!” The former seems like I’m considering not showing up at all. But to convey enthusiasm without the dreaded exclamation point involves pulling out extra words like: “I’m really looking forward to seeing you. It will be the highlight of my week.” Who has time for that?
I find that I write more texts, emails, and Facebook posts than anything else these days, so I like the discipline of having to write in this hallowed space. (See, it would be nice to insert a wacky face here so you know that I’m kidding and that I don’t really think this is a hallowed space. I’m concerned that, while writing this column is one of the most joyful parts of my life, you are going to think I’m taking this a bit too seriously. Without that emoji, I’m really taking my chances.)
I strive to be a more earnest person who takes her time and relies on quality word choices. Which is why I went back into that Facebook post and deleted all the emojis. It cost me another 60 words and five minutes to replace them, which I could totally afford.