I’ll come out and say it: I’m a fan of emoji. 5 years ago, I’d have to kick my own ass for saying that. I’m not entirely sure why I started using emoji, or when, exactly, but I have been for some time now in all forms of written communication.

Some time ago I asked a few people what their thoughts were on using emoji when writing business emails. That is, you’re not writing to your buddies, you’re emailing colleagues, customers, potential customers, etc. I got responses on all ends of the spectrum. Some thought it was never acceptable, others thought it may be, depending on the relationship you have with the person you’re emailing, and others said it was totally fine.

Since then, I’ve thought about this a fair bit, and I think it’s by and large fine to use most emoji when writing business emails.

Email is cold

When you’re communicating with someone via email, it’s a fundamentally cold environment. It is very difficult to convey emotion, except for anger (it’s pretty easy to write angry emails) in an email. This means that people can misinterpret what you’re trying to say in a myriad of ways.

When you’re speaking to someone face to face, body language, tone of voice, etc. convey a lot about what someone is thinking, or what they’re actually trying to get across.

Consider this example. Let’s say you met someone recently, and exchanged contact information. You’re now sending them a follow up email. In the past, I’ve started those emails with something along the lines of:

Hi Foo,

It’s great to make your acquaintance.

Which is totally cold, dry, and boring.

Sometimes I’ve gone with:

Hi Foo,

It’s great to make your acquaintance!

Which seems a bit excessive.

These days, I go with:

Hi Foo,

It’s great to make your acquaintance 😀.

At least to me, that sounds more warm, and conveys that I’m genuinely happy about meeting this new person. When you’re using a cold medium, any emotional connection you can develop, no matter how small, is worthwhile.

A lot of email is typed on a phone

It’s hard enough to convey emotion in an email when you’re at a laptop or desktop, with a nice keyboard that you can type as much as you want into. It’s a heck of a lot worse when you’re trying to peck out an email on your phone.

With emoji, you can express a lot in a character or two. A 👍🏽 can often substitute for an entire sentence or two.

When it’s still not appropriate to use emoji

Some emails are intended to be cold, boring and dry. Obviously, don’t use them then.

Some types of emoji can also be wildly inappropriate. For instance, you probably never want to send an email to a customer that says:

💩, one of our webservers just 💀➡️🔥

I would never use 💀➡️🔥, regardless of context (what a horrible thing to say to someone), but apparently it’s a thing people do.

If you have opinions on this, I’d love to hear them. Reach out on twitter: I’m @gopalkri 😀.