Tonight, reading the final papers from my nonfiction class, I was saddened to discover that one student had not abandoned the habit, which I had critiqued in the past, of using smiley faces in her work. I crossed them out, explaining (again) that powerful writing should generate emotion without emoticons.

Slashing through the third beaming little face, I had a terrible flashback to a moment from my own youth, when an English teacher told me not to use so many exclamation points, because vigorous writing generates energy through language and not punctuation.

I didn’t listen to this teacher. Today I use exclamation points all the time! I don’t think they’re a crutch, so much as another tool in the box. Now I begin to wonder: is that how the next generation will view emoticons? Is one generation’s crutch the next generation’s useful, crutch-shaped mallet?? Have I become an obstruction in the path of literary progress??? Am I now the monster????

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11 Responses to “NOW I AM THE MONSTER”

  1. Samantha Says:

    Elif, I am often confronted with the same question and have many times been tempted to include emoticons in emails to my professors. I find that, despite emoticon’s increasing ubiquity, they really do not belong on a serious work of writing (moreover, it would be bizarre to see them on a page of printed text). Your professor was wrong–sometimes writing calls for an exclamation point. But to insert a smiley face would be just plain silly.

    On the other hand, as it is often difficult to convey specific emotions like sarcasm and snark through text (as being an active forum poster has taught me), something like the proposed interrobang would come in quite handy. If all else fails, however, I suppose a sarcasm-denoting emoticon (a winky? an eye-roll?) may be called for.


  2. Last Man Standing Says:

    Certain books prove that strong writing does not require the use of the letter “e”.

  3. Dev. Kinney Says:

    Yes, Elif, you may someday be viewed, not as a monster, but as a sort of “Miss Manners” of literature for you opinion on emoticons. As communication becomes ubiquitous, we are forced, even compelled, to quip, to speak in anagrams, to use irony–not just for speed and catharsis, but as an attempt to seem hip, in the know (though we know less and less) and somewhat fresh.

    emoticons clarify these bursts of id dominated messages and responses, by signally intent. I can foresee some company producing keyboards with emoticons in the near future, and I would wager that typographers have already developed font based smileys and frownies.


  4. Tuomas J. Lukka Says:

    Elif, I think every generation *needs* the monsters of the previous generation to stand up against. Otherwise, they’ll go like a hatching chick that doesn’t get to break its shell itself (they run around frenetically until they die (the chicks, that is, no the generation except metaphorically)).

    But realizing that we are now the adult generation is pretty strange :)

  5. Dan Smith Says:

    No, you’re not a monster. Not an obstruction either. Surely emoticons are for texts, informal emails, internet forums, not for serious writing. Can you imagine a book – fiction or non – in which the writer was so incapable of conveying their meaning that they had to use little yellow faces? Turns me cold.

  6. Damion Searls Says:

    @Dan Smith

    Speaking of which….
    “Emoji Dick is a crowd sourced and crowd funded translation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick into Japanese emoticons called emoji.”

  7. Elif Says:

    @damion, i love your blurb!!!

  8. Sophie C Says:

    You must have been so relieved to discover Russian literature, the kingdom of unlimited exclamation marks!

  9. Zerrin Says:

    I love exclamation marks!! and there goes another 2
    Now I can’t add an exclamation mark without thinking of you Elif

  10. Elif Says:

    @sophie – you joke (i think?), but chekhov has a great short story about an exclamation mark. it’s called “the exclamation mark.” gogol is no slouch with exclamation marks either (”it’s boring on this earth, gentlemen!”).

  11. Elif Says:

    oh tuomas – every time we correspond i learn something new about chickens!!

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