Emojis may seem like a foreign language to those of a certain age, but adding a smiley to an email can make young people happier at their work, a new study has found.

However think twice before you wink with an emoticon, or use such shorthands to soften bad news and the older you are, and the higher you get, the less respect social media speak inspires.

Lead author Dr Ben Marder, of Edinburgh University, tested out the effect of smiley emojis in staff-student communications to see if it increased commitment and satisfaction.

Volunteers were asked their feelings about emails with and without smiley emojis on, from junior and senior staff.

The senior lecturer in marketing said they found: “Our students are generation Z, and they are digital natives, growing up in a world of text-ese, emojiis, and this is the normal way of online communication. 

“They will become a major part of the workforce soon. 

“Our findings show that using smileys in general emails, supervision emails and online feedback leads to more positive teacher evaluations and a more favourable response if students are invited to undertake a task.

“Although there is a very small drop in the perceived competence of a staff member if they use smileys, this is outweighed by the warmth they give off.”

But it is is best to avoid possible double entendres. 

“Smileys are the most used emoticon by a long way. We would definitely not use Winkys that would be a mistake. Winkys are a slightly dangerous emoticon to use.

“Of course, there are some situations in which emojis would not be suitable, but I think in the vast majority of cases, the use of smileys is
completely advantageous.”

Dr Marder added that mixing emojis with normal messages will become more widespread generally. 

He added: “We tested it in quite general emails and online feedback, which is a quite formal thing, and my impression is that it is suitable in the vast majority of communication situations.

“When I use customer service emails from companies quite often they involve an emoji , so people are catching on to it.”

In the study over 300 volunteers were shown several e mails without and without smilrey emoticons attached, which came from a senior staff member, a professor, a middle-ranking lecturer, and a junior assistant.

Overall the more informal messages with emtoticons had a warmer reception, than others. 

The study in the journal Studies in Higher Education, suggested: “Staff should consider the appropriate use of emoticons in their communication with students because the positive effects on perceived warmth appear to outweigh the reductions in perceived competence, and the desired behavioural task has a greater chance of being completed.”

Emoticons came first in the early 1980s when computer scientist Scott Fahlman realised his words were failing him.

Finding difficultly in conveying some posts were meant to be taken as a joke, he strung together a colon, a dash and a bracket to make what is now an instantly recognisable character :-).

Emojis were never intended for adults, when dreamt up by Shigetaka Kurita, an employee of Japanese telecom company NTT Docomo, in the late 1990s.

Kurita was searching for a way to convey messages on the pager system in shorter, more casual prose, but without misunderstanding or offence. 

He came up with emoji’s and there are now thousands worldwide.