Emoticons are a form of informal punctuation, akin to the more formal exclamatory (!) and interrogative (?) punctuation marks. Although they are not yet suitable for formal written works, there is nothing wrong—assuming that, like the em dash, they are used sparingly—in sprinkling them into electronic textual communications.

So as much as I love Carl Trueman’s work as a theologian and cultural gadfly, I have to take issue with Carl Truman as grammar schoolmarm. Herein is a reply to his Emoticonoclasm:

1. Real men don’t worry about what people think of their punctuation.

2. People who have a decent command of the English language and are able to express themselves using those old fashioned things, words and sentences and punctuation marks, can sometimes have a need, for clarity’s sake, of emoticons — especially those permanently restricted by force of habit to only 120 characters. It’s not a matter of working harder. We have a great language, but meanings are often ambiguous. Those who rail against emoticons are part of the increasing intellectual fustiness of the church.

3. Railing against emotions represent a regression to a modernist theology of communication whereby arbitrary grammar rules trump effective discourse.

4. As I said earlier, real men don’t care if someone uses a “just kidding” emoticon [ ; ) ] on their Facebook status or Twitter feed. Hard to stress that one enough.

5. As for the intent in which I hope this post will be taken, all I can say is: ; )

Articles by Joe Carter


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