What are Emoticons or Smileys?
Emoticons (called “smileys” by some programs) are a combination of symbols to form an icon that helps express emotion. For example, when you string together a colon, a hyphen and a right-parenthesis, you're expressing a smile. If you look at it sideways, it even looks like a smile! 🙂
Why use emoticons?
Instant messaging and chat are very informal methods of communicating, and it is common to use acronyms, abbreviations and emoticons to help keep the conversation flowing smoothly.
Of course, one of the biggest obstacles in communication by written language alone is that you don't have the benefit of hearing the tone of the other person's voice, or seeing their body language. Those aural and visual cues help you discern between sincerity and sarcasm; humor and anger. Emoticons give you a way to add those “cues” back into the conversation.
Some instant messaging and chat programs will convert your emoticons into a graphic that makes the emotion even more clear. The following table shows some of the more commonly used emoticons, how you type them, and what they look like in the most popular instant messaging programs.