Smiley = Rhetoric…Whhhhaaatt?

It is sometimes extremely difficult to wrap your head around the fact that rhetoric is literally EVERYWHERE. So much so, that I just used rhetoric in that sentence, TWICE!

Even though one may not even know what rhetoric is, or not realize that they do indeed know how to use it; rhetoric can be found, placed, and seen just about anywhere. A perfect example of a rhetorical device that is used billions of times a day is the emoticon. These tiny, and creative, tools are strategically placed into hundreds of thousands of text messages, emails, and advertisements daily. For those of you going “what in the world is an emoticon,” here you go:

emoticons.pngImage found at:

Emoticons are a beautiful rhetorical device that are thoughtfully placed in the perfect place and at the perfect time. An appropriately placed and used emoticon can be very affective in clearing up confusing and expressing emotions through cold text. However, just as a greatly used emoticon can be incredibly useful, a poorly used emoticon can create extreme confusion in a situation that would have been easy to understand. For example, if I send my brother a message that reads “my dog died” he will automatically assume that I am upset and need to be comforted. However, if I send him a message that reads, “my dog got hit by a car 94f03e8e72647373f93d5271ee594cfb” it will probably cause some confusion as to why I am laughing hysterically after finding out that my dog has died.

Media, text messaging, and written advertisement seem to somehow lose their emotions when they can not be heard from someone. Reading a cold written text message does not show the true emotion of the writer as much as a phone call where you could hear the sadness in someone’s voice would. For this reason, emoticons are awesome! They embed the ability to see emotion into a written text. They prevent people from getting offended when they shouldn’t, mistaking the mood of the writer, and sometimes they prevent things from being read in the wrong tone.

Emoticons are also proven to a rhetorical device because you have to know when to use them. For example, rhetorically speaking, it probably isn’t the greatest choice to insert an emoticon of any meaning into an email to the State Board of Education. Emoticons seemed to be viewed as unprofessional, and in the professional world the only tone that should be used is a professional one therefore emoticons should not be placed inside of written documents to express tone and emotion. However, in a text message to your significant other they are extremely important.

Finally, emoticons can be seen as rhetorical devices because they are targeted to a certain audience. You use certain emoticons for certain readers. For example, if you are trying to get a message across quickly without having to type out any lengthy words, inserting an emoticon and sending it out off quickly to your mother would be perfect. Emoticons are incredibly useful rhetorical tools that are used daily by people of all ages, that probably have absolutely no clue they are exposing themselves to rhetoric.


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