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Smilies and Typography

story © Michael Betancourt | published March 17, 2011 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  


Increasingly the conversion of smilies into cute little graphics by various software programs is looking juvenile, like an incorrect solution to what is clearly a problem based in punctuation. Consider the way that punctuation is essential to the creation of meaning in this singular statement:

Wow, that's great.
Wow, that's great!
Wow, that's great :)
Wow, that's great :(
Wow, that's great ;)
Wow, that's great :(
In each case there is an entirely distinct, independent meaning conveyed; however, the four basic smilies are, in purely typographic terms, awkward. Yet the conversion of them into little graphic faces does little to resolve this issue. Instead, it forces a shift from reading into looking--language to picture--that disrupts the comfortable flow of scansion.

What we need, perhaps, are some new typographic characters based on the letter forms that create the smilies, nicely kerned, which can then be inserted as we would any other element of punctuation. I know this would have a direct and immediate impact on how I would use these elements in my own writing.


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