- Next trainer development cohort 23rd - 27th September 2024

How to use emojis more inclusively

12th October, 2022

How to use emojis more inclusively

They’re more divisive than Marmite.


More controversial than the Game of Thrones finale.


More contentious than whether the cream or jam goes on your scone first.


What am I talking about?


Emojis, of course.


Some people love them and will sprinkle them liberally over everything from a text to an email.


Others feel they dumb down our communication and aren’t fit for business communication.




I’ve become a convert over the years.  In emails especially, emojis can help to clarify our meaning and stop miscommunication. Especially if we’re churning out hundreds of emails each week.


But, of course, it always depends on who you’re writing to.


Emojis can be a nightmare for people who are blind or have visual impairments and have to use screen readers.


Say, for example, you wrote this in an email:


Hope you enjoyed the 🌞 at the weekend 🕶️.  It was so hot! 🔥🔥🔥


When read out loud by a screen reader, which uses the alt text description of the emojis, your friendly message might instead read something like this:


Hope you enjoyed the sun with face at the weekend dark sunglasses. It was so hot fire fire fire.


Not so easy to understand after all, right?


I came across this fantastic article by Ryan Tan, a UX designer at Vodafone.  It clearly explains how to use emojis more inclusively.


My favourite 3 takeaways?   


  1. Don’t use emojis to replace words, only to boost their meaning.   You’ll make your reader work harder than they need to.  Tan explains ‘Emojis are very helpful in enhancing the experience, but words are still king.’ 
  2. Don’t go overboard – use emojis sparingly to avoid obscuring meaning when they are read out loud.
  3. Avoid ambiguous emojis – don’t try to be clever.  Try instead to use emojis that might be recognisable for people of different ages, cultures, religions, nationalities etc.


Check out the full article here – it’s a great read.  And let me know your stance on emojis – do they get a thumbs up from you? 👍

University of Cambridge


- Next trainer development cohort 23rd - 27th September 2024

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