Smileys are used frequently to add emotion to the text we write today. Making a colon with a capital D: D makes a big smile to emphasis how we feel about the subject we are expressing. Semicolons are used for a wink; and left parentheses for a frown (or right parentheses for a smile).
The difference between emoticons and smileys is that emoticons are not made of text symbols but are instead little pictures that express emotions. You can find them at smiley Central.
Thanks to the use of text messaging on cell phones, instant messaging (IM) and message boards the use of smileys and emoticons for informal written communications has soared.
It is rare to find a youth that is not well versed in the meaning and use of smileys and emoticons on the internet and in messaging today. The youth were the first to use them and spread their popularity.
While the early use of smileys expressed only happiness and sadness, the variety of symbols has increased to now be able to show disbelief, anger, surprise and playfulness as well.
Emoticons are used more by females than males which may be attributed to females being more adept at using them and possibly to females being more in tune with the nuances of expressing emotions in text.
Obvious benefits of using emoticons is shorter messages to convey intimate text messages although some criticize their use as being detrimental to having depth in human communications.
Use of emoticons has hit a plateau as all the smiley text combinations have been discovered. The future or more nuanced symbols lies in message forums that have longer text messages with new symbols required to display the range of emotions expressed.