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 Smileys and other abbreviations

The problem with email is that you can't convey to the reader that you're being sarcastic. Or winking. Or mad. Or having such a bad hair day that you resemble Ronald Reagan. Well, of course you can -- it's done in novels and short stories all the time -- but the other problem with email is that you want it to be as thorough as possible but also be as brief as possible. Sort of like a Reader's Digest condensed book. You want to be complete, but that would take too long. Everything you type in email has to be transmitted. So instead of typing "by the way," many people will type BTW. It transmits faster, and it's easier for your average two-fingered typist to type. Here are some common email abbreviations:

BTW     By the way
IMHO    In my humble opinion
LOL     Laughing out loud
ROFL    Rolling on (the) floor laughing
OTOH    On the other hand
TNG     Star Trek: The Next Generation

Similarly, clever email geeks have created a series of codes that indicate when they are smiling, smirking, having a bad hair day, etc. These are sometimes called "emoticons" by people with an anal-retentive need to have a scientific, important-sounding name for everything. These are (usually) composed of punctuation marks that form little faces when viewed sideways. Following are the most common:

:)     Your basic smiley -- just eyes and a smile.
:-)    A little more anatomically correct, includes a nose.
8-)    Sender wears glasses and is smiling
:->    A smirk, or a devilish grin. Most popular among "Calvin & Hobbes" fans
;->    A variation on the above, but the sender is winking
:-}    A sheepish grin
:-(    Sender is unhappy
:-\    Sender is confused or dissatisfied
:-O    Sender is open-mouthed with astonishment
7:-|   Sender resembles Ronald Reagan

For a more complete list, consult the "Unofficial Smiley Dictionary." But be prepared to wait . . . the list is quite long . . .


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