4 min read

Are we allowed to use emojis in business emails?

Emojis In Business Emails
Caution! This article is 6 years old, and our opinions may have changed.

Emojis are becoming part of our day to day life, no matter of age or gender. So we pose the question: Is there a place for a smiley face in your emails? Can they provide emotional context within business communication or are they being misused?.

What is an emoji?

A small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication. “Emoji liven up your text messages with tiny smiley faces”.

Emojis are ideograms and smileys used in electronic messages and web pages. Emoji’ exist in various genres, including facial expressions, common objects, places and types of weather, and animals. They are much like emoticons, but emoji are actual pictures instead of typographics. Originally meaning pictograph, the word emoji comes from Japanese e (絵, "picture") + moji (文字, "character"). The resemblance to the English words emotion and emoticon is purely coincidental.

Originating on Japanese mobile phones in 1999, emoji have become increasingly popular worldwide in the 2010s after being added to several mobile operating systems. They are now considered to be a large part of popular culture in the west.

Do I use them at work?

Yes, everyday. And all my team do also. We certainly use them within Slack, a communication tool we use within our studio. And I personally use them in business emails to clients all over the world.

Why do I use them?

We are a Creative and Digital Studio based in Manchester, we have a small team, we’re informal, our approach is direct, and we like to think we’re a young and vibrant agency. Our communication within face to face meetings, design pitches, tenders, networking events, and over the phone is all informal. We talk as we do in our social life, and present ourself as northern lads who love what we do and know what we’re talking about (when it comes to the digital industry). So within emails, my informal tone of voice and language works well alongside the occasional smiley face or emoji icon.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t type a full email out with emojis so the client has to guess what I’m talking about. But the emotional aspect is clear to see, a simple smiley face or laughing face can say a thousand words.

Do they make me seem less competent?

According to a study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, emojis actually make workers appear less competent. Additionally, an OfficeTeam survey found that 39 percent of senior managers think it's unprofessional to include emojis in work communications. Their opinions could ruin your reputation as a qualified expert.

"Emojis are a newer form of communication, so if your recipient is older, an emoji can make you seem less competent simply because your recipient was expecting a more traditional correspondence," added Lehr.

My response too this is understanding your client. I would never send emojis in an email to a client I’ve never met or built up a relationship with. But over time, as you get too know that person - emojis help quick communication and build up personal relationships.

I personally don’t believe age is a factor. I know clients who are of the older generation who use emojis to me on a daily basis. I just believe the character of that person is more welcome to emojis than others, it’s not driven by age.

If the client is very serious, they don’t joke or have ‘banter’ with any of my team - we would recognise that and emojis won’t play a part in communication.

Is it industry specific?

Yes I think so. Industries like Corporate Finance, Healthcare, etc maybe are a bit more serious and professional in their working environment. The problem with new kinds of communication like Emojis is that you just don’t know how the other person will receive them. Where your career’s concerned, the stakes could be too high if the recipient should misinterpret the message.


There’s a lot being said about this at the moment and my opinion is that too much of a fuss is being created. If people want to use emojis to communicate, let them. If a smiley face really offends you in an email - either mention it too the sender or try to let it go over your head. I generally think most people will only send emojis too people they have built up relationships with and understand their personalities, so I don’t see it being a major issue.

Surveys that suggest people are less competent because they use emojis in communication is just ridiculous in my eyes. We are very good at what we do, and including a thumbs up emoji in an email does not mean we aren’t an award winning digital agency.

I personally think text speak, abbreviations and such alike is worse than using emojis in an email.

Is it bad that I’ve not used an emoji within this blog post?


Oops, I have now.

Co-Founder of MadeByShape. Most of my blogs are about business related aspects, not just web design.