Simple Emoticon/Text Emoji
Emoticons are visual representations of a person's mood or feelings using keys on a keyboard. In the faceless world of the internet these little icons are necessary to add humanness qualities to otherwise robotic words. They also help make sure that things being written are not taking in a different tone than the author intended. For example:
Perhaps my husband texts me this message, "I have something to tell you..."
Without any indication to the tone, me being the worrywart that I am, I'm going to automatically think it's something bad.
However if he writes, "I have something to tell you... :)" I'll know it's good news. Maybe a promotion, maybe something fun.
"I have something to tell you... :(" Indicates something sad, or that he thinks he's going to be in trouble when he tells me.
"I have something to tell you... :/" Implies I'm probably going to be disappointed with the news.
"I have something to tell you... ;)" Tells me he's cooking up some special surprise for us.
See, with just the small addition of a few extra characters the meaning of what is written can completely change.
A brief history of emoticons
1881 - a chart of vertical typographic emoticons is published in Puck magazine.
1963 - Harvey Ball the "smiley face," which soon becomes a cultural icon.
1982 - On September 19th, 1982, Scott Fahlman suggests that :-) and :-( should be used for joking and for serious matters. This is the first documented account of the use of emoticons.
Since that day emoticons have evolved into many different emotions, expressions, and styles.
Here is a list of various types of emoticons that are used all over the world.
:-) Alternative (with nose)
>:) Evil Grin
:') Tears of Joy
:*) Kiss on the Cheek
>:( Angry Frown/Upset
X( Eyes scrunched, really upset
:P Raspberry/sticking tongue out/Silly
XP Really sticking tongue out in defiance
:3 Kitty Grin
>:3 Evil Kitty
:D Big smile
XD Belly laugh
D: Surprised (not good)/Disgusted
D:< Really mad
There's so many more, but these are good for starters.
These don't follow the traditional western smiley look. There are literally thousands of these smileys and different countries (particularly in Asia) with different letters and keyboards have their own special emoticons. Altough this style of emoticon was popularized in Japan (especially with the creation of kaoani), it is widely used all over the world today. I'll start you off with a few.
>^_^< Cat Whiskers
(._.) Blank face
>_> Shifty Eyes/Dishonest
X_x Knocked out/Tired/Dead
TT_TT Waterfall of Tears
T^T Crying with a pout
*_* Starry-eyed Dreamer
b(^_^)d Thumbs Up
Here are a few emoticons that you can type that are not smiley faces but can be useful or fun (I apologize for the vulgar ones lol).
</3 Broken Heart
(_|_) Butt/Digital Moon
nlm Flipping the bird/Middle finger
@#%$# Or any arrangement of symbols, used to indicate cursing.
(>'.')> Kirby/Little Ghost
Learn More Emoticons
This wikipedia page has an extended list of emoticons for you to learn.