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What is the difference between emoji and emoticons?

You probably didn’t even know there was a difference! So let me explain the differences between emoji and emoticon.

So, now you’ve discovered that emoji and emoticons aren’t in-fact the same thing, you’ll probably be wondering what the differences are.


Emoticons came first. They were first used in 1982. Emoticons are pictorial representations of facial expressions using punctuation. The most commonly used emoticons are the smiley face and the unhappy face which are created like this; and :-(. Emoticons these days don’t have noses allowing them to use less characters, which helps for the 160 character limit in SMS messages and the 140 character limit in tweets. There are many different variations of emoticons used, which have the same meaning, for example these smiley faces:

– original emoticon

 – shorter version

(: – backwards version

=) – equals sign in place of the colon for eyes

Some emoticons were later automatically converted into unicode standard – meaning if you were to type 🙂 into a message you would get a more colourful, animated image.


I personally use emoji on a daily bases. I bet you have all had a time when you’ve read a text and not known whether the writer is being serious, funny, upset etc. Well Emoji can help with that battle.

Emoji, unlike emoticons, are actual pictures, of almost anything you can think of. There are currently 722 official emoji and they form categories such as: People, Nature, Food & Drink, Celebration, Activity, Travel & Places, Objects & Symbols and Flags. Unicode are constantly updating the emoji and they are different depending on what platform you use.

For example this is how a grinning face looks across different platforms:




As you can see, each platform has its own individual style.

So, there you have it. You learn something new every day! 🙂

Emma Fowle :Emma graduated with a degree in design and came to Oxygen straight from college in 2012. She is experienced in design for print and web.

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