Why it’s ok to emoji

The other day my world was shaken. News broke of such travesty that it moved me to the core, bringing out of me an emotional, vengeful state that I never knew existed.

Yes. The crying face emoji was named as word of the year.

At the time this somewhat annoyed me. See below:

What was the point, I thought, of all my years learning my craft as a writer, if only pictures were going to come in and replace all my words?
Why did I bother, I asked myself, getting that MA in Creative Writing if this was what the world was going to come to?
How long, I considered, did my career as a copywriter have left with all these art directors lurking, suddenly seeing how easy their jobs could be?

However, that was then and this is now, and I’ve had time to reconsider my stance. I’ll be sticking that CV back together, or just printing out a new copy.

While the title ‘word of the year’ might not be literally correct for something that is, in no way at all, an actual word, I think the fact an emoji was awarded the title is a good thing.

Why? Well…

It shows language is evolving.

Well done language, high fives coming your way.

Language has been evolving ever since it was first used. Cavemen used to speak with grunts and draw on cave walls. Egyptians used hieroglyphics, Shakespeare said ‘thee’ a lot, and Wayne Rooney has mastered the language of a distant, alien species of gorilla.

Is the emoji the next step of that evolution? Nah, probably not. I doubt scholars or opinionated bloggers in the future will ever refer to us as the emoji generation, but it’s definitely a step in that direction. People are using emojis in everyday conversation, they’re replacing entire sentences with them, and in some cases whole conversations are just made up with weird little faces rather than any form of written communication. Sure, it might just be a fad, but it’s a fad that we’re ball-deep inside of.

Why does any of that matter?

Whenever I’m writing copy, the biggest point I try and remember is that I’m writing it for my audience’s benefit, not my own. My natural tone of voice tells me to put some wit in there, it begs me to make it more sarcastic and try and raise a smile with the words I use. But 9 times out of 10, my audience aren’t the kind of people to appreciate dark humour.

“Hello sir, we know your credit rating is shit and that you’ll be rejected for a loan if you go anywhere else, but we just thought we’d let you know you can still get one with us because we know where you live. We’ll just leave that information with you.”

I doubt that would go down too well.

We write for our audience, and therefore we write in their language, not our own. If our audience is speaking with emojis, maybe we need to be more adept at understanding why. If our audience is used to quick, short form writing that gets to the point, maybe that’s the way we need to talk to them.

Would I have made an emoji the word of the year? No, but I’m glad someone did.

It got us all talking about it for starters, and up until then I didn’t even know there was a word of the year competition to win.

It was a great PR stunt if anything.