When Words Fail: The Power of Emoji

By Paige Ferrari
College of Humanities and Social Sciences Student, Bachelor of Arts in Communications

two people holding up heart-eye emojis

Sometimes, our words fail us. We stand there speechless, unable to articulate the mash-up of thoughts and emotions that are convoluted in our brains.

When we text our friends, we debate whether or not a smiley face emoji is appropriate.

Though emoji might seem like new revelations, they have actually been around for thousands of years. The “monkey covering eyes” emoji has come a long way from drawings in charcoal on the walls of caves in the ancient land, but the concept is the same: Emoji are able to convey cross culturally and provide a filling when words may fail.

Mismatched Messages

Non-verbal messages are said to be 55 percent of all of our communication. Thirty-eight percent is vocal tone, and only seven percent are the actual words we choose.

As humans, we are able to communicate nonverbally through body language, the way we present ourselves and even the emotions that show on our face. Smiles mean happiness or pleasure. Grimacing means pain or discomfort. Red cheeks and looking down are tell-tale signs for embarrassment.

Sometimes, words don’t even need to be used. We are able to tell whole stories by our body language and facial expressions (a game of Pictionary, perhaps?).

Think of sarcasm. It’s is a great thing. It’s a humorous, fun and fascinating aspect of communication. Our tone helps us convey our humor and irony, but our words can bite if left unaccompanied.

Have you ever tried to be sarcastic in a text message? It just doesn’t work. My friends and I joke around that there should be a specific font for sarcasm that you can use when needed.

But that is when emoji find their glory! When sarcasm can’t be conveyed, by even the most seasoned writer, and facial expressions are nowhere to be found, emoji convey a message that is irreplaceable.

Emoji make up for the facial expressions and tone that lack when face-to-face communication is unavailable.

Sometimes, it’s best to let emoji do the talking.

Read more posts from Grand Canyon University student Paige Ferrari.


Sternbergh, A. (2014). Smile, You’re Speaking EMOJI. New York, 47(26), 30-100.

More about Paige:

Paige Ferrari is a senior at GCU studying Communications and serves in the Spiritual Life department as part of the Global Outreach Team. Although she’s from Southern California, Paige finds herself falling in love with the people, culture and lifestyle of Phoenix, and hopes to permanently move here after graduation. She is a passionate writer, reader and coffee connoisseur; she is always looking for some creative words over a cup of coffee.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.