This passage describes the use of symbols called "emoticons" in electronic writing.
Emoticons, graphic symbols used in e-mails and other forms of electronic communication, are a form of paralanguage primarily intended to show facial expression or emotion. The word "emoticon" is a portmanteau, meaning that it is composed of two other words: "emotion" and "icon." Using only written words to communicate limits the writer and can sometimes cause misunderstanding. There are many variations of emoticons, but most of us recognize the smiling face "J" and frowning face "L" as basic indications of happiness and unhappiness, respectively. A colon is used to represent the eyes and a parenthesis forms the mouth. Sometimes a hyphen is used for a nose. Using an emoticon allows the writer to add emotion to what he or she is saying. This can be a way of emphasizing what the written words are saying, or it may be a way to suggest teasing or sarcasm. In any case, the emoticon replaces the contextual cues that would be present in face-to-face communication.