Updated: Feb 21
Have you ever heard of the slippery slope theory? It goes something like this:
People want to use “lol” and emojis in their professional emails.
If they do that, they’re going to diminish the importance of what they do.
If they diminish the importance of what they do, they’re going to care less about doing a good job at work.
If they care less about doing a good job at work, they’re going to put less effort in.
If they put less effort in, the company will work less efficiently at best and be significantly damaged at worst.
In other words, it’s an argument against accepting a particular proposition because it could set off a chain reaction that leads to an unwanted conclusion. Often automatically classified as a fallacy, the slippery slope theory can, admittedly, be used as a form of propaganda or fearmongering.
But that doesn’t mean it has to, as history has proven a time or two. At the risk of making melodramatic connections, consider Nazi Germany. That mass-murdering state grew out of socialism.
In case you didn’t know, Nazi stands for National Socialist German Workers’ Party. And it didn’t appear overnight. It stemmed from a particular way of thinking that encouraged particular laws that allowed for particular outcomes.
So… understanding that extreme example… should people put “lol” and emojis into their professional emails?
I would honestly say it depends.
The reason I think it depends isn’t because I’ve used a smiley face or “lol” before myself. If you’ve ever gotten a professional email from me, you might already know that.
I do that on occasion because I happen to agree with Judith from Business Email Etiquette when she writes:
When it comes to daily communications, the basic guideline is to use emojis or emoticons sparingly and with discretion. Some have argued that there is absolutely, under no condition, a place to have a smiley face or “winky smiley” in a business email.
I can see where in some fields, professions and communications, that is the case. Professionalism and formality rules the day, and there is no place for emoji use.
Time and time again, I always note that each business and corporate culture is different. Not all the guidelines I discuss on this blog are hard and fast rules that every business must abide by.
Therefore, the first rule of thumb is to know your business and evaluate it from there. Though that’s hardly the only guideline to go off of.
“As with anything, using your better judgement is key,” Judith writes. And, once again, I completely agree.
Just because your business encourages or even promotes a more informal environment doesn’t mean every email should overflow with emojis.
In fact, I’d argue that no email should overflow with emojis. Take it from someone whose four-year-old niece likes to get into her phone and text those things nonstop.
They can get very old very fast.
If you’re going to use them, do it to emphasize a point here or there. Maybe once every five or six sentences or two paragraphs as needed?
But even then, that’s only if you’ve evaluated the person on the other end of the email… and determined they’ll be fine with that kind of thing.
For instance, let’s say you’ve been going back and forth a few times and have established a good rapport. In that case, you’re probably fine clarifying a statement or two with more casual embellishments.
Another example might be if you’re replying to an email from someone who sent an “lol” or emoji first. Therefore, they’re probably not going to think less of you for doing the same.
Again, use your better judgement. If you’re trying to put the person at ease and you don’t think your words alone will do the trick? Consider using an emoji.
If that isn’t the case, consider not. That way, you won’t risk seeing just how slippery your professional email slope might be.