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Emojis Can Help Teams Communicate and Collaborate Better—Really

They’re an effective way to establish a more conversational tone.

Using emojis in work correspondence is complicated. It’s easy to look unprofessional or even rude if, say, you’re slapping a thumbs-up on every Slack message as a substitute for a thoughtful response. Generally speaking, emojis are OK in conversations with colleagues, but not always with clients. In chats or emails, they help set a tone of humor or levity and soften criticism when co-workers can’t hear the tenor of your voice. But which ones should you use? And when? We reached out to professionals, and here’s what they had to say:

Direct Hit

Use it to say: “You nailed it!” or “Stay on target!”

Colin Palfrey, chief marketing officer of coffee equipment seller Majesty Coffee in Bridgewater Township, N.J., employs it “when I want to emphasize to my team to be focused on our respective tasks.” 

Hundred Points

Use it to say: “I’m totally on board.”

“It means I agree, 100%, without having to type it out,” says Deborah Sweeney, chief executive officer at MyCorporation, a business incorporation company.

Neutral Face

Use it to say: “I’m mildly annoyed but playing it cool” or “I’m not entirely sure how to respond.”

“It can be a response to a tricky situation or a lame joke,” says Jordan Peagler, a lawyer at MKP Law Group in Beverly Hills.

Grimacing Face

Use it to say: “Uh-oh.”

“It’s a way to share stress and awkwardness with colleagues,” says David Wyatt, senior vice president at Elizabeth Christian Public Relations in Austin.

Thinking Face

Use it to say: “I’m considering” or “Hmm, not sure about this.”

“My clients love it because it shows that I’m coming up with an idea or response to help them,” says Branda Johnson, a communications strategist in New Orleans.

Rocket

Use it to say: “You’re rocking this!” or “We’re headed for epic success!”

“It’s well understood as a hybrid of praise for good work and a signal for ‘go!’” says Matt Benn, founder of Soundplate, a music marketing platform. It’s ubiquitous in the startup world and in forums such as Reddit’s wallstreetbets, where it means “to the moon” (as in, this stock price is rising quickly).

Folded Hands

Use it to say: “Thank youuuuuuu.”

“I use it to convey deep gratitude,” says Tomi Akitunde, founder of Mater Mea, a community for Black moms. “When people continue to show up in the midst of a crisis, I thank them.”

Check Mark Button

Use it to say: “Done!”

“We use it a ton in Slack. It signifies completing an item,” says Nick Brown, co-founder and chief executive officer of digital marketing agency Effct.

Lightbulb

Use it to say: “That’s genius.”

“Anytime someone has a great idea, creates a solution, or poses a question that sparks a problem-solving discussion, I use it,” says Michelle Dees, the founder of Guineapigowner.com, a site for tips on grooming, pregnancy, unusual breeds, etc.

Partying Face

Use it to say: “Woo-hoo!”

“It’s my go-to emoji whenever we have good news or a win,” says Ted Liu, founder of search optimization service Just SEO.

Warning

Use it to say: “Read this now.”

“We have an understanding that if you place this at the start of your message, it is to be checked immediately,” says Thomas Jepsen, founder of Passion Plans, a platform for architects and designers.

Person Facepalming

Use it to say: “Oh, my God.” “When we receive a frustrating or confusing email, I use it to express frustration to co-workers,” says Steve Adams, a public-relations account executive at the Cyphers Agency in Crofton, Md.

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