Not being a big user of social media, I was nevertheless fascinated by the uptake of emoji and its various forms (same with emoticons when it first caught on). I am wondering whether there has been any standardization on the use of emoji in general IM and online conversation in the same way emoticons were (although there were a lot less variations and styles possible).

By standardization I am referring specifically to three different areas:

  • The type of applications (both within and outside of IM) where it is acceptable and common to use emojis
  • The meaning of frequently used emojis (across different languages or cultures)
  • The way emoji messages are constructed, i.e. the 'grammar' or 'syntax' (I get very confused when there is more than one used)

One example of how emojis can be standardized can be seen on the emoji search engine website (http://www.emojiengine.com/). They have applied a combination of visual (by the layout of all the emojis by shape, size, etc), language/culture (you can select the language, which will change the context of the emoji) and also keyword/tag (the primary way to search I believe).

It would be interesting to see if there are other ways to go about this.

  • 1
    Most of this is trend/culture specific. The inclusion of emoji in the unicode standard gives a lot of clues about that (there's a great video about emoji and unicode here: youtu.be/tITwM5GDIAI). I don't think you'll find a single standard for any of the things you mentioned... at least not yet! Oct 18, 2016 at 7:52
  • 2
    "The way emoji messages are constructed, i.e. the 'grammar' or 'syntax' (I get very confused when there is more than one used)" if someone sends you a peach followed by a cucumber be excited (or concerned?)
    – DasBeasto
    Oct 26, 2016 at 12:09
  • 1
  • @Crissov is there an answer in all of those links that you might want to summarize?
    – Michael Lai
    Oct 27, 2016 at 5:12
  • When I find the time.
    – Crissov
    Oct 27, 2016 at 5:19

1 Answer 1


Types of applications: It's safe to say that emojis don't belong in formal communication, or in sensitive social situations. Example: sad emojis don't feel genuine in a condolence message. But this is not an absolute rule. If all parties involved understand that emojis are as serious as text, it might be ok.

Meaning of emojis: You can find the unicode meaning of emojis here, although I have seen occasions where everybody understands an emoji to mean something different, and it just sticks. For example. no.60, in the list above, the grimacing face is often used to mean a wide grin.

The way emojis are constructed: Unless you're playing movie names in emoji, there isn't too much to read into the sequence of emojis used. The number of (usually related) emojis usually express the extent or intensity of emotion.

Emojis keep evolving, and sometimes the standard (unicode) emojis aren't enough. Facebook enriches conversations with stickers, and Google Allo's doing the same. This allows for more culturally relevant emojis. It could be based on a newly released popular movie, or like Google's trying to do with India... They ran a contest to find out how Indians express themselves and then (plan to) make them stickers on the app.

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