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.” But if you’re not quite ready to give up emojis, here are some hacks you may not know about.