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The question, “Should you use emojis in your business email?” is one of the most reactionary topics in my popular “Email Etiquette” training session. We all use email in business, but rarely do employees receive any type of formal training in the do’s and don’ts of what makes business emails professional, including the use of emojis.

That ubiquitous bright yellow smiley face elicits a grin on most recipients’ faces. So, there are a few times when emojis are acceptable…but in general, they are not appropriate in business emails.

Here are five tips about using emojis to keep your work emails professional:

1. Use emojis only when emailing people with whom you already have an established (and mutually respected) business email relationship.

Examples: coworkers, boss, vendors

2.  Use them very sparingly. 

  • One smiley face is okay, but not five.
  • Example: To congratulate – Congratulations on reaching your team’s fundraising goal! 😊
  • Example: In a thank-you email – Hi, Bill, Thanks so much for bringing bagels to the staff meeting this morning! It was so thoughtful and kind of you, and enjoyed by all! 😊

3.  Do not use emojis with prospective clients, in a “thank you for the interview” email or with anyone you are emailing for the first time. It can diminish your professionalism.

4.  Do not use a smiley-face emoji to “mend” a previously sent email that may have been gossipy,  or to help “repair”a strained or broken business relationship with the recipient.

5.  When emailing from smart phones with their endless assortment of emojis, select emojis with clear meaning, such as the variety of happy faces. Avoid anything that may be misconstrued by the recipient (smileys blowing a kiss, hearts) or emojis that may offend in other cultures such as the thumbs up and OK sign (You never know who the email may be forwarded to.)

For more of Rachel’s business etiquette tips, you may like reading Email Etiquette: 3 Ideas for Effective Subject Lines and 8 Rules of Business Email Etiquette. You can also “like” the Rachel Wagner Etiquette and Protocol Facebook page and follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.