I’m guessing that most of you Windows users have no idea what this post’s title is about. Chances are, however, that Mac and Linux users are well versed in the J emoticon.
Day in and day out I receive emails from friends and family members that are often peppered with Js. You might be wondering if the use of this letter is suppose to convey “joke” or “jest” or “joy” or some other word that starts with J. But no, that isn’t it.
Is it instead some secret code known only to my family and friends? Some reminder of a shared memory? No, that isn’t it either.
No, the Js convey the juxtaposition between HTML email and Microsoft’s arrogance. You see, HTML email is the technical means by which email contains fancy things like bold, italics, graphics, and yes even different fonts. Microsoft Outlook designers thought it would be clever to autocorrect the standard :) emoticon into an actual smiley face using the Microsoft-provided Wingdings font. In this font, the smiley face is represented by the character J. If a receiver of an email does not have the Wingdings font, the character is displayed in a different (usually non-symbol) font and you get the Js. Most Linux users, iPhone users, and I believe Mac users as well, do not have this Microsoft font installed on their systems and I often receive emails with seeminly-random Js scattered throughout.
I’ve been half tempted to start writing J instead of :) in my emails back to these users of Outlook but decided that would only confuse them. Besides, it isn’t their fault — it’s Microsoft Outlook’s and its failed assumptions that all email will be read on Microsoft platforms.
So if you, gentle reader, use Outlook to write your emails, consider disabling this ‘feature’ and make your emails a bit more clearer to the broader world. J