Emojis often used rather than words by more than one in five adults – poll

Why use words when a thumbs up or a happy face will work just as well?

Many adults often now turn to emojis rather than spelling out what they want to say, according to a new poll.

But it also suggests that there is some concern that the rise of these little icons, along with other factors such as increased use of abbreviations and social media, is limiting vocabulary.

The survey of 1,000 people, commissioned by Guide Dogs UK, found that more than one in five (22%) say they often use emojis, Gifs and memes rather than words when they are online or using social media platforms.

And around one in eight (13%) say they prefer using these to using words.

While face-to-face conversations were still the most common form of communication (59%), text message comes a close second (57%).

Around half (51%) said they commonly communicate with others through instant message, while a similar proportion (50%) use email, and 44% use social media.

More than one in five (22%) of those polled agreed that increased use of abbreviations has limited their English vocabulary.

Just under a fifth (19%) said increased use of emojis is a factor in limiting vocab, while the same proportion (19%) cited not reading as much after finishing formal education.

In addition, 15% agreed that increased use of social media tools contributes to limiting vocabulary.

Guide Dogs commissioned the survey as part of its “powers of description” campaign, which urges the public to think about the significance of descriptive language skills, and the importance of language and words for those with sight loss.

Countdown's Susie Dent
Countdown’s Susie Dent says there are “distinct benefits” to keeping your vocab skills sharp (Ian West/PA)

Susie Dent, the lexicographer best known for “dictionary corner” on Channel 4 game show Countdown, who is supporting the campaign, said: “There are distinct benefits to keeping our vocabulary skills sharp and improving our descriptive word power throughout our lives – from enabling us to be more creative, to processing information more quickly, and increasing our confidence.

“It is never too late to bolster language skills and enrich your life, and other people’s, as a result.”

Dave Kent, engagement officer at Guide Dogs said: “Language has the ability to nourish and inform situations and places for people with visual impairments.

“Communication and description are a core part of the My Guide service.

“Today we are asking people to make a real difference and volunteer to support us on our mission to recruit an extra 4,500 My Guide volunteers by 2023 – Guide Dogs’ need your help.”

– The Opinion Matters poll questioned 1,000 UK adults aged 16 and over between August 16-21

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