I’m a professional writer and editor, and I am torn – torn, I say! – when it comes to the use of smilies in informal writing. (I also don’t know whether the plural is “smilies” or “smileys,” but I prefer the former so that’s how it will be spelled throughout this OP.)
It’s pretty obvious from my collective posts here at the SDMB that I am a fan of smilies when it comes to informal writing (message boards, e-mails, text messages, instant messages, etc.). I believe that the purpose of writing is to communicate, and smilies help the writer achieve that purpose: before the time of smilies there were hundreds of thousands of miscommunications in writing, and now there are just handfuls of thousands. They may look too “cute” (especially the graphical ones, vs ASCII emoticons), and may call to mind junior high days of dotting i’s with hearts and flowers, but on the whole I think that they help to clarify tone in a medium where tone is notoriously hard to express. It’s appropriate that they have gained popularity at a time when many people are spending more and more time writing to people they don’t know.
That said, the part of me that writes for a living is always berating the part of me that loves smilies: if my writing were clear and effective enough, I wouldn’t need them! I know of a message board where the target audience is professional writers, and smilies of any kind are not allowed. And way back when I asked for critiques of my on-line personal ad, I was overwhelmingly urged to get rid of all the smilies (I reduced their number, but couldn’t get rid of all of them). But every time I tell myself, “Right, no more smilies,” I encounter a situation where not using one seems counterintuitive – the whole “if I can make sure that XXX knows I’m kidding up front, instead of having to explain it later among possibly hurt feelings, why not?” thing. But then I think that I’m somehow failing as a writer (again).
What say ye, Dopers? I know some folks here are vehemently anti-smilies: if you’re one of them, why? Likewise, if you’re a smiley addict, why do you think they’re acceptable?