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Just from using SO, I have seen many direct/indirect comments about using smilies. I understand this is a (generally) serious site, but I was wondering just what are the rules/expectations on using textual emoticons, written or not? I generally don't go around using smilies on SO, but I find myself using (or keep myself from using) them sometimes.

I have looked for posts about emoticons and smilies and only found posts about making them pictures. So I was wondering if there was a written rule / post about expected behavior / an unspoken rule concerning the general use of smilies. I know it's not a ban-able offense or anything (I hope?) with moderate usage, and it's more "use them at your own discretion", but every so often I feel they can help 'enhance' a post, if it could be taken more than one way (rude/condescending vs trying to help).

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It's not bannable until you start littering them mid-sentence or mid-word. Otherwise, I'm quite sure that most of these rules are unwritten — the only written one I know of is don't overuse them. There's also nothing wrong with not using them at all, too. Some things aren't very good to make a habit out of. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Jun 25 '12 at 12:36
@BoltClock'saUnicorn So really is more of a use at your own discretion type thing? – Fewfre Jun 25 '12 at 12:38
Yup, that's pretty much it. :) – Pëkka Jun 25 '12 at 12:39
I think that's the basic idea, although "discretion" is completely subjective... – BoltClock's a Unicorn Jun 25 '12 at 12:39
I hate emoticons. – Al E. Jun 25 '12 at 12:56
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Stack Overflow is a work of reference, not a forum. You should approach it like any form of technical writing: Strive to make your writing as concise and clear as possible. Anything that can be removed while maintaining the relevant meaning of the post should be. Your questions and answers exist to serve as a reference for future readers with the same or similar problems. Emoticons have no more place in this style of writing than they would mid-paragraph in a Wikipedia article.

On the other hand, comments are specifically for discussion and I don't think anybody would disagree with the use of emoticons there.

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I think they are cute :-) They should be used to spread <3 on the site :D and to show everybody how cool you are. 8-) ;))) Don't overuse them, though ^^ :-P

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