These are called "emoticons" Use them when you want to make a point or make sure that your message is understood in the "emotion" you want.

:-) Your basic smiley. This smiley is used to inflect a sarcastic or joking statement since we can't hear voice inflection over e-mail.

;-) Wink (something said tongue-in-cheek).

:-( Sad, disappointed face.

:-I Indifferent smiley. Better than a :-( but not quite as good as a :-)

:-> User just made a really biting sarcastic remark. Worse than a ;-)

;- Winky and devil combined. A lewd remark was just made.

<:-O "Eeek!"

:o "O" Premier Edition!

:_( User is crying.

 

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More acronyms, abbreviations, smileys and emoticons.

Computing Acronyms Test