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Smiley faces in your journal articles?

Language has always been evolving. For better or worse, the formality of language has changed including embracing new words. Publishing, undoubtedly, has been changing. Too slow for some and too fast for others. I was wondering how emojis will start to creep into scholarly writing in the next five, ten, or twenty years. Sounds farfetched?

I am not a big emoji person. Maybe I will do a 🙂 every so often. I use this to ensure my meaning cannot be misconstrued. I progressed to the occasional thumbs up.  I know; radical.

The other day I scrolled through my iPhone 7’s emoji options for texting and was dumbfounded. About 1,500 emojis! There are 9,000 plus books with emoji in the title. iTunes has thousands of items in songs, albums, and podcasts that have the word in the title.

I imagine the current 15-year-olds through 30-year-olds are using an awful lot of emojis in lieu of words to express themselves. They probably don’t understand why one would type out the word monkey when an image would work.

When this group starts to write their first textbooks and monographs (closer then I think!), how might they change publishing with the use of emojis, considering their younger audience would expect them even more?

Once again, not as farfetched as it sounds. Isn’t this #, just a symbol for number, pound or hashtag? Don’t we use P and N as placeholders for complex statistical concepts?

I know symbols are different from using a happy face in the middle of a paragraph in a journal article. But if the norm of communication becomes more pictorial, how can it not affect publishing, particularly in younger books?

If you are familiar with Japanese, some of the communication is in kanji which is a pictorial based system for phrases versus spelling out each word. Emoji-like, but for the past 2,000 years! And the Japanese invented the emoji.

I don’t know how I feel about this possibility or if I even believe it is possible. It is intriguing to think about emojis in the middle of an article in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2030.

Maybe the possibility of using emojis in scholarly writing will be the inevitable closing of the loop from the hieroglyphics of Egypt!

Would emojis working their way into more serious communication be a good or bad development? Let me know your thoughts.

And for your homework, read the Wikipedia article on emojis or the Emojipedia.

John BondJohn Bond is a publishing consultant at Riverwinds Consulting. He has been in scholarly publishing for over 25 years. In his career, he has directed the publishing of over 500 book titles and 20,000 journal articles. His newest book is the new edition of You Can Write and Publish a Book: Essential Information on How to Get Your Book Published, Second Edition. He is the host of the YouTube channel “Publishing Defined.” Contact him at