How Do You Punctuate Around Emoticons and Emoji? 


How is language evolving on the internet? In this series on internet linguistics, Gretchen McCulloch breaks down the latest innovations in online communication.

Emoticons are made of punctuation, but do they count as punctuation themselves? Should you punctuate around them? What about emoji? Do they count as punctuation or should you punctuate around them, too?

Let's explore our options:

1. Punctuate afterwards.

This seems like the most intuitive option, but it often looks awkward:

2. Punctuate before.

Okay, what if we just punctuated before the emoticon or emoji? This makes some of the examples better:

But before-punctuation makes other examples much worse, or even changes their meaning:

And how would you even go about punctuating "before" the emoticons in "my favourite emoticons are :D, :P, and :)."?

3. Don't punctuate at all.

Emoticons are made up of punctuation marks, and emoji are at least on the "special characters" set of the keyboard. Perhaps they're sufficient by themselves, without other punctuation? Let's take a look:

This doesn't have as many obviously weird examples as either of our punctuated options (the lack of close parenthesis and list commas bug me a bit, though), but it also feels like it's lacking in meaning—sure, I could say most of these, but if I really wanted to include four exclamation marks, I think I'd feel bereft at having to ditch them all.

4. Hybrid system.

Perhaps there isn't just one way to punctuate emoticons and emoji. Sometimes, you really do need punctuation—using just the opening half of a pair of parentheses looks pretty odd, for example. And omitting a question mark invokes a particular informal, flat style, which you might not be aiming for. Plus, of course, you don't want to get people confused between "you're on fire!" and "you're on! *flame emoji*". So in that case, do your best to avoid confusion: for example, I sometimes "upgrade" a :) to a :D so that it's clear that the following ) is closing the parentheses rather than just emphatic smiling — (this :D) not (this :)).

But that tiny hanging period? Those exclamation marks or question marks? They look weird, especially after an emoji, so I'd omit them or shove them next to the words, depending on the effect I'm looking for. If you're writing a more ambitious emoji-only text like Emoji Dick, you may want to use punctuation around your emoji for the same reason that we use punctuation in any connected text.

The thing is, by the time you're using emoji or emoticons, you're not exactly writing a particularly formal document, so this is exactly the time to just go with your own aesthetic preferences. Besides, emoji and emoticons are especially common when you have a lot of short posts or line breaks, like in texts, Twitter, or instant messaging, where most people don't punctuate at the end of every utterance anyway. Which means, ironically, that the people who run into the most problems with how to formally punctuate these symbols aren't actually the everyday users—it's the people like me who write about them. :P

Why Are Mugshots Made Public Before a Suspect is Convicted by the Court?

Jennifer Ellis:

Several reasons.

1. Mugshots can help find people when they have absconded, or warn people when someone is out and dangerous. So there is a good reason to share some mugshots.

2. Our legal system requires openness as per the federal constitution, and I imagine most if not all state constitutions. As such, this sort of information is not considered private and can be shared. Any effort to keep mugshots private would result in lawsuits by the press and lay people. This would be under the First and Sixth Amendments as well as the various Freedom of Information Acts. However, in 2016 a federal court ruled [PDF] that federal mugshots are no longer routinely available under the federal FOIA.

This is partially in recognition of the damage that mugshots can do online. In its opinion, the court noted that “[a] disclosed booking photo casts a long, damaging shadow over the depicted individual.” The court specifically mentions websites that put mugshots online, in its analysis. “In fact, mugshot websites collect and display booking photos from decades-old arrests: BustedMugshots and JustMugshots, to name a couple.” Some states have passed or are looking to pass laws to prevent release of mugshots prior to conviction. New Jersey is one example.

a) As the federal court recognizes, and as we all know, the reality is that if your picture in a mugshot is out there, regardless of whether you were convicted, it can have an unfortunate impact on your life. In the old days, this wasn’t too much of a problem because it really wasn’t easy to find mugshots. Now, with companies allegedly seeking to extort people into paying to get their images off the web, it has become a serious problem. Those companies may get in trouble if it can be proved that they are working in concert, getting paid to take the picture off one site and then putting it on another. But that is rare. In most cases, the picture is just public data to which there is no right of privacy under the law.

b) The underlying purpose of publicity is to avoid the government charging people and abusing the authority to do so. It was believed that the publicity would help protect people. And it does when you have a country that likes to hide what it is up to. But, it also can cause harm in a modern society like ours, where such things end up on the web and can cause permanent damage. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a catch-22. We have the right to know issues and free speech rights smack up against privacy rights and serious damage of reputation for people who have not been convicted of a crime. The law will no doubt continue to shake out over the next few years as it struggles to catch up with the technology.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

What Happens When You Flush an Airplane Toilet?

For millions of people, summer means an opportunity to hop on a plane and experience new and exciting sights, cultures, and food. It also means getting packed into a giant commercial aircraft and then wondering if you can make it to your next layover without submitting to the anxiety of using the onboard bathroom.

Roughly the size of an apartment pantry, these narrow facilities barely accommodate your outstretched knees; turbulence can make expelling waste a harrowing nightmare. Once you’ve successfully managed to complete the task and flush, what happens next?

Unlike our home toilets, planes can’t rely on water tanks to create passive suction to draw waste from the bowl. In addition to the expense of hauling hundreds of gallons of water, it’s impractical to leave standing water in an environment that shakes its contents like a snow globe. Originally, planes used an electronic pump system that moved waste along with a deodorizing liquid called Anotec. That method worked, but carrying the Anotec was undesirable for the same reasons as storing water: It raised fuel costs and added weight to the aircraft that could have been allocated for passengers. (Not surprisingly, airlines prefer to transport paying customers over blobs of poop.)

Beginning in the 1980s, planes used a pneumatic vacuum to suck liquids and solids down and away from the fixture. Once you hit the flush button, a valve at the bottom of the toilet opens, allowing the vacuum to siphon the contents out. (A nonstick coating similar to Teflon reduces the odds of any residue.) It travels to a storage tank near the back of the plane at high speeds, ready for ground crews to drain it once the airplane lands. The tank is then flushed out using a disinfectant.

If you’re also curious about timing your bathroom visit to avoid people waiting in line while you void, flight attendants say the best time to go is right after the captain turns off the seat belt sign and before drink service begins.

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