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Franklin Krohn has published a study in the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication with the title A Generational Approach to Using Emoticons as Nonverbal Communication. The rather obvious result: Younger people like them; older people don’t.

If you need more detailed rules, here the summary:

It is recommended that recipients who are Traditionalists (born before 1946) should not be sent e-mail with emoticons; those who are Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) probably should not be sent e-mail with emoticons; those who are Generation Xers (those born between 1964 and 1980) may be sent e-mail with some of the more common emoticons; and those who are termed Millenials (born after 1980 and coming of age after 2000) may be sent e-mail with generous use of emoticons.

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