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One often wants to convey a kind of mood when writing a comment to another person, especially if what we're saying is ambiguous or can be taken offensively. So, one adds a smiley or an emoticon. Is there a technical term for what they add or impart to the English language?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

Well, if you want a technical term, it's the limited bandwidth of text. (For certain values of "technical"...) It's frequently claimed that in-person vocal communication is something like 60% body language and 30% tone of voice; in text communication we get neither, implying that we're making do with 10% of the normal bandwidth, or range of expression. This makes many things that would be clear in in-person vocal communication ambiguous in text, so we invent things like emoticons to try to compensate.

I also occasionally refer to the emotive flatness of text.

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Nice. I would add that unadorned text is a "narrow channel". – dmckee Mar 3 '11 at 22:39

There may well be a better term for it, but at first blush I would say this is adding non-verbal cues to our written interactions.

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