Global Language Monitor, a Texan think tank that researches and tracks language trends, has just released their annual report on the most popular and influential phrases people are using. For the first time ever, the most popular word isn’t a word at all. It’s an emoji – a symbol composed of typographical characters. Emojis are sometimes called emoticons.
Here’s what the winner looks like: <3 Depending on what device, platform, or website you’re typing it on, the <3 will look like some form of a heart, generally red – it’s the universal symbol of love, and people love using it. Global Language Monitor’s president, Paul JJ Payack, cites the triumph of the love emoji as proof that the English language is undergoing a transformation unlike anything seen previously in its 1400 year history. While English has a long tradition of creating new words and adopting words & phrases from other languages, the move toward increasingly symbolic forms of written communication does appear to be relatively new. As business owners, we need to be aware of how our customers use language and express themselves. This is especially true on social media. In a character limited environment, emojis are important space savers. <3 takes only 2 characters, spelling out love takes 4 – and I Love You requires 10! Additionally, emojis give social media users a quick way to add tone to a text based comment. “That looks great!” when accompanied by a thumbs-up emoji reads very differently than “That looks great!” paired with an eye rolling smiley face. Our role is to make sure we understand the emojis and use them appropriately throughout our communications. Emoji use is evolving. While they primarily appear on social media, emojis also have a presence in email communications, app design, and even print advertising. There may be a point where an emoji is the best, most effective way to communicate with your customers – something to think about as we go forward in 2015.