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When I make a hilarious joke on social media it's easy to put an emoji/emoticon/smiley on the end. πŸ˜€

But sometimes I want to set the context and make a more reasoned argument over a paragraph or so. I might put something funny in the middle πŸ˜›. Should I put the emoji before or after the full stop? It seems no matter which way round I write, it just looks wrong to me. Here, the emoji makes the period feel a bit orphaned.

The alternative is to put the emoji after the full stop. πŸ€” But when I follow this with another sentence, it feels like the emoji is now attached to the latter rather than former sentence. I can't win.

I particularly can't win when I need to put more than one emoji in a single paragraph 😧. I easily end up with an inconsistency - some before the period, some after. 🀯

Yes, I might be being slightly pedantic about this, but getting my grammar right on even informal writing is important to me. Get it wrong, and one can look like a clown rather than act like one.

  • 76
    Surely the answer is simple. There are no circumstances under which emoji should ever be used. – Judith May 6 at 9:19
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    Have you considered: "Today is a nice day. πŸ˜€."? I like to do this when I feel that the emoji conveys meaning that is not part of the sentence. Otherwise, I put the full stop after the emoji. – Kartik Soneji May 6 at 17:05
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    That's the simple question. The hard one is, how do you handle unrendered emoji before closing a parenthesis. – rumtscho May 6 at 17:37
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    I handle unrendered emoji preceding a parenthesis by putting a space before the parenthesis. – Stephen Daddona May 6 at 18:41
  • One way I've noticed myself getting around this by sending a single sentence per message. In that case you can use it as punctuation or after punctuation, which are the more natural ways in my opinion, without worrying about it bleeding into the next sentence. Of course, this only really works for media where it is acceptable to send many short messages over a single long one. Examples include instant messaging and text messaging (assuming neither party is charged per text), but don't include email, social media posts/comments, or basically any other form of written communication. – AlexanderJ93 May 8 at 13:52
52

There is no real grammatical rule for this and the very fact that you are using emoji shows that grammar probably isn't very important.

That being said, from what I see on social media, most people use emojis sort of like punctuation, not text, putting it at the end of a sentence instead of a period/exclamation point. Example:

Today was a great day πŸ˜€ I am happy πŸ˜›

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    In most cases it serves the same role as punctuation does - conveys the mood of the message. So it's natural to use it instead of punctuation in those cases. The only exception would be if one uses an emoji to replace a word. But I don't. – Džuris May 6 at 18:35
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    I πŸ€”most readers can figure out when you use an emoji as a full stop πŸ™ƒversus as an interjection or a word replacement 😁based on context. – Erty Seidohl May 6 at 19:09
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    @DΕΎuris This seems to be highly subjective. Reading Today was a great day πŸ˜€ versus Today was a great day. πŸ˜€ makes a big difference in my head. The first sentence seems incomplete, the end kind of dangling in the air. The full stop lowers the voice and changes emphasis of the last word. – smcs May 7 at 10:13
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    An emoji is just a big dot, isn't it? We really don't know the mood of all the small dots written in books and newspapers.I'm glad someone magnified them. Some engineers should go and take a look through a microscope to find the mood of all the small dots that were written in the past. – Thomas Weller May 7 at 12:25
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    What does "the very fact that you are using emoji shows that grammar probably isn't very responsible" mean? I guess it's a grammatically well-formed utterance, but I can't make any reasonable sense out of it. – Nathaniel May 8 at 15:27
35

I have an insight that might or not help you :

I once had the very same question, but for my native language: French. I sent a mail to the "Académie française", which is the french official language institute.

After some days I got a very pedantic response telling me that I should not use emojis in any sentence as they were a display of my lack of ability to convey my emotions using my poor vocabulary.

I was not pleased. But this is an official answer for French.

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    Thanks for this anecdote. It'll probably take a long time before they budge, but unsurprisingly, the official answer is wrong. French has words for emotions, but it doesn't have a way of expressing them (only experimental languages like Lojban do), thus making emoji's necessary. – stommestack May 7 at 10:12
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    @stommestack You can convey emotions through text without having to explicitly have a symbol for expressing them... We've been writing text for centuries. If this was required for written communication, why is it lacking from practically every written language? What does it actually solve? Showing an angry face doesn't actually convey how angry you are, you might as well just say "I'm angry". Emoji are still static representations of facial expressions to convey a single feeling, I don't see how it's necessary when you can describe the same emotions with words. – JMac May 7 at 12:48
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    @JMac Putting "I'm angry."/"I'm happy."/"I'm sad." after another sentence is grammatically correct, but it's not how anyone actually talks, because your facial expressions and tone of voice fill that need. Emoji's, like all punctuation, alleviate the lack of them in writing. The oldest preserved text with an emoji in it is a letter from 1635; non-preserved usage is older. – stommestack May 7 at 14:00
  • @stommestack It's not a particularly clear "punctuation". In fact, it doesn't seem accepted that they are "punctuation" at all. Punctuation is useful because they are small easy to make and understand markings. Drawing faces doesn't really work like that at all. Text just straight up isn't talking. If I want to portray emotions, there are plenty of options to do that over text. Adding a drawing of a facial expression seems like a fairly weird one to me, especially if it were in a medium where you can't verify exactly what the symbol is intended to represent (unlike on computers). – JMac May 7 at 14:11
  • @stommestack What do you mean, French "doesn't have a way of expressing" emotions? English has such words as "Wow!" for expressing surprise or amazement and "Ouch!" for expressing pain, and surely French has such words as well. – Tanner Swett May 8 at 16:43
17

Emoji is new and I believe there haven't any grammar rules related to emojis. You can put it before, after, or even as a full-stop.

If you ask me, I prefer to put it as a substitute of punctuation marks. However, I sometimes put it before punctuation marks, indicating that the emoji is still part of the sentence (describing that sentence).

Example:

I didn't brush my teeth this morning πŸ˜….

God, I miss movie theaters 😟 I hate this pandemic 😑! When will it end?

I am the one who ate your leftovers 😝

I also sometimes think emojis are like phrases you use in parentheses, but as images.

Hello πŸ–οΈ, guys!

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    Agreed, Emoji can function as a punctuation mark perfectly well. – SF. May 6 at 9:35
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    In casual communication I think it is acceptable but not in anything serious. (I feel they should not even be used in questions on Stack Exchange.) – Willeke May 6 at 16:10
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    We are a site where questions are written in as good English as we can and others will edit it to get it better. Pictures are no part of good English. – Willeke May 6 at 16:38
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    @Willeke "😱" is newer than "?" but they are both pictures and there is no sensible reason to allow one and not the other. Only tradition. – Džuris May 6 at 18:39
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    I have seen too many emoji (or whatever they may be called) not come through on computers and even phones, which makes the intended meaning only guesswork. And I have also seen many used instead of words where I, (not used to talking in them) do not understand what is meant. People who are used to them do not realize how little they are known in the rest of the world. – Willeke May 6 at 19:20
14

A sentence is made up of words, hence Emoji should have no place in them. Putting them after a full stop is the most sensible option. Writing out a sentence, then inserting an Emoji, then the full stop interferes with grammar rules, there will be an ugly space between the last word and the full stop. An Emoji at the end of a sentence should not be seen as part of the sentence, but more like a meta element, conveying a feeling that the preceding words evoke in the writer.

The alternative is to put the emoji after the full stop. πŸ€” But when I follow this with another sentence, it feels like the emoji is now attached to the latter rather than former sentence.

I disagree here, it still feels attached to the first sentence, probably because in general Emoji are rarely placed before the words they are supposed to characterize.

I have no data or references for any of this. πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ

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4

As someone who used emoticons and kaomoji before emoji became widely used, I tend to put emojis where I would put an emoticon or kaomoji. For me, that tends to be either after punctuation or in place of punctuation, and I've seen many people who did/do the same :D But I've also seen many people who put an emoticon or text face before punctuation. ^^;

I think that emoji that are illustrative should be put next to their corresponding words (if the emoji aren't outright replacing the words), and if those words are at the end of a sentence and there's another sentence afterward, then I think the emoji should go before the punctuation so that the emoji is not separated from the word it's illustrating.

For emoji that are more like gestures (like their own individual messages--thumbs up, the thinking face, etc), if I don't use them to replace punctuation entirely, then I put mine after punctuation for two reasons:

  1. I see them as akin to punchlines or self-reactions to whatever I just said
  2. If punctuation is present, then I delay the finishing tone (the falling tone when you finish an arbitrary statement in English) in my head until I see the punctuation, and I don't want other people to read my sentences with unfinished tones

I also don't see post-punctuation emoji as attached to the next sentence, but I can definitely see why others might see it that way.

For further reading, something off the top of my head is Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch, which is a fascinating read in general and has a chapter titled "Emoji and Other Internet Gestures". Lauren Gawne helped greatly with this chapter. McCulloch is a linguist and Gawne is a linguist who does research on gestures, which are also called emblems. I haven't looked at Gawne's research separately, though; I've only read McCulloch's book.

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Inspired by MattOnyx who found the answer for the French language I decided to look at advice for the Dutch language. Luckily the answer was easy to find: the "Nederlandse Taalunie" (Dutch language union) who develops and stimulates the policies for the Dutch language has a website called "taaladvies" (language advice). Here you can find the following article:
https://taaladvies.net/taal/advies/vraag/1716/plaats_van_emoticon_of_smiley_in_een_zin_of_tekst/

The answer here is: if you post the emoji after a sentence it comes after the full stop. There has to be a space before and after the emoji. Examples here are:

  • We booked a weekend to London! πŸ˜„
  • You have a lovely child! ❀️

You can also use them within a sentence:

  • We are going to London πŸ™‚ and booked three musicals! πŸ˜ƒ

They make it clear the these guidelines are for all types of emoticons and smileys: both the 'western' :-) as well as the eastern ^_^ and images such as the heart ❀️ emoji.

You can also put a punctuation mark after a smiley, although that can be confusing:

  • Linda will start a job in London :-/, but luckily we are going on a trip first.

Last but not least: they tell you that you can use them in informal written language, and that they don't belong in newspapers, magazines, or formal web texts.

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2

I'm going to take a stab at creating some rules for this which - of course - are completely made up and meant to be broken. This is a community wiki: please contribute!

  1. If the punctuation is a full-stop, you can replace it completely with an emoji

I went to the cinema today πŸŽ₯ The movie was great πŸ˜„

This works because people often leave off full-stops in sentences in texting anyway

  1. If the punctuation used modifies the sentence (e.g. "!" or "?"), and the sentence ends the line, then the emoji goes after the punctuation:

This is the coolest!!!! πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

  1. But if the sentence doesn't end the line, then the emoji goes inside the punctuation:

This is the coolest πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘!!!!! But it's also not cool 😞

I'm not 100% sure about rules #2 and #3 and would love feedback.

  1. Some emoji can replace some punctuation. For example, πŸ€” can replace "?":

Do you think it's going to rain tomorrow πŸ€”

Some of these are more obvious than others:

Wow is that cool❓

Here the question mark is a modifier for the sentence, but in:

Which do you prefer πŸ™πŸŒ½

The πŸ™ and 🌽 emoji are choices and not punctuation, so they count as words. The question mark here is implied.

Other emoji cannot be used to replace punctuation (it's unclear if the "🚫" is answering the question here)

Do you think it's going to rain tomorrow 🚫

  1. Emoji used to emphasize through repetition are treated as part of the preceding word:

Do you think πŸ€” it's going to rain 🌧 tomorrow?

  1. If emoji are part of a quote and are punctuation, they go inside the quote (this is vs some guidelines in English which put the punctuation outside the quote). You can then have another punctuation symbol outside the quote:

"I am very cool 😎", she said.

Then he said, "I am also very cool 😎".

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    I think the ideas that you are presenting here are interesting, and i'm sure it will be interesting to read the ensuing discussion as well. That being said, this is not really what SE questions are used for. Firstly, its not a question, it's a discussion. SE is supposed to be for people asking for help or exploring the subject. Next it is off topic. It does not ask about the current rules in place, it creates new rules. I do appreciate the discussion you are trying to create, but i feel as though a chat would be better suited than a question. I am asking the moderators to make it a chat. – Ankit May 7 at 16:35
  • @Ankit Yeah I agree, that's why I made it a community wiki, which I think of as an async chat :). But happy to move this to a different format if you'd like. – Erty Seidohl May 7 at 16:37
  • I also based these "new rules" based on my own observations of how I and my friends use emoji and would love for other people to add their own experiences, since I think there may not be any "offical" rules for this. – Erty Seidohl May 7 at 16:38
  • I strongly suspect that formal rules will eventually arise once the current generation having grown up immersed in emoji is elderly, which their kids will think quaint as they communicate using newfangled dynamic hypermemes that the older generations just don't understand at all. – Dan Bryant May 8 at 16:12
  • Include a screenshot of this comment in the history book please – Erty Seidohl May 8 at 19:21
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I would say an emoji does not belong in the middle of a paragraph any more than it belongs in the middle of a sentence. You could always start your new sentence on a new line after the emoji so it would always it would be like the first case you mentioned

In terms of parts of speech I would say an emoji is closest to an interjection. So put it anywhere you would normally put 'YAY' or 'BOOM'.

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There are two cases here:

One if emojis in isolated sentences within a chat. In this case the stop is usually omitted, and the emoji is just at the end of the sentence. Not before, or after, or replacing it, because there is not a point anywhere.

The second case is the less common use of emojis in a paragraph, with full sentences, stops and grammar. In this case, they should go before the full stop or any other punctuation mark. I am basing this answer in the common usage of the question/exclamation mark inside two parentheses: (?) and (!). This is not very widely used, and is ugly, but it exists and have done for some time. They are used in a way similar to an emoji, and are written before the punctuation mark.

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