Think Twice Before Adding a Smiley Face Emoji to Your Next E-Mail

Your smiley face emoji might be making others in the office frown.

Unfortunately, when it comes to sending e-mails the recipient can’t always discern your tone or see your face. You may think adding a smiley face emoji to the end of a sentence is a great way to solve this issue—and it’s just one of the many fascinating reasons we use emoji—but a new study is giving that use the thumbs down.

For the study, published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science, researchers at the Ben-Gurion University in Israel looked at 549 people in 29 countries, conducting three e-mail related experiments. In the first experiment, participants read an anonymous work e-mail and then evaluated the sender’s competence. Messages that didn’t include smiley faces were thought to be from more competent coworkers as opposed to emails without a smile.

Tatiana Ayazo /

In follow up experiments, recipients were more likely to give a thorough reply to an e-mail without emoji. The study authors note that, “information sharing was significantly lower in the smiley condition than in the control condition.”

(While you’re checking in on your e-mail habits, you may also want to avoid these common e-mail mistakes that could give your co-workers a headache, too.)

Researchers point out that, face to face, a smile may be a sign of warmth, but in the context of an e-mail people may find it insincere and feel less likely to share as much information.

“Our findings provide first-time evidence that, contrary to actual smiles, smileys only marginally increased perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence,” said Ella Glikson, one of the study’s authors and a post-doctorate fellow at the BGU Department of Management, in a press release. “In formal business emails, a smiley is not a smile.”

Overall, the study authors suggest that, “In initial interactions, it is better to avoid using smileys, regardless of age or gender.”