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The art of emoji reactions in Slack

Emoji reactions are a powerful thing.

They create an empathetic experience, in which you can reveal your shared emotions or support. But how do you know which emojis to use? Expressing simple emotions is easy (it is, after all, why emojis were created in the first place), but what about when you want to acknowledge that you’ve read a message and you’ve already used 👍several times today? What about when you want to answer an open-ended question without bothering to type anything? What about when someone has laid an unnecessary or and you want to be clear that they have your attention?

Below, I’ve outlined some simple guidelines that can help you find the proper emojis and bring your emoji game to the next level.

Do not limit yourself to a single reaction

In some cases, multiple emojis can tell a story that would be impossible with just one (or even two!). Try using emojis that represent individual words, phrases, or even syllables in the message.

Focus on the key words of the message

No need to find an emoji to represent every word. Focus on one part of the sentence (e.g., the subject , object, or verb + object). Better to do one thing and do it well, than to have a confusing mess of half-finished thoughts.

Think outside the box when making associations

Oftentimes, the specific word you might be looking for will not exist as an emoji. Do not despair! Word associations can be even more evocative than if there had been an emoji for the word itself.

Both synonyms and homonyms can be particularly effective. Consider also words that sound like, rhyme with, or are a subset of the word you are trying to represent. If it’s an adjective or verb, consider nouns that are generally associated with it. Finally, consider telling a story with the emojis, instead of using them literally or as a play on words. You will see examples of all of these associations in the Case Studies.

If all else fails, add a new emoji

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Sometimes adding a new emoji now will pay off in the form of having an additional building block for the future.

Cases Studies

Case Study #1

The example uses the following emojis: , , and . illustrates the principle of using partial syllable overlap, where is a homonym.

Case Study #2

The reactions here are 🦌() and 🥞(). is very close to a synonym for , and the words and are also very closely related.

Case Study #3

For context, Wise Guys is a (very delicious) pizza place.

Ignoring , which is a very obvious answer, the other reactions are and . represents the principle of choosing a noun emoji that is representative of an adjective (in this case, ). is another example of a partial syllable, but could also be considered a homonym.

Case Study #4

In this example, the emojis and were used to represent the restaurant . Here, the splayed hand illustrates the principle of telling a story through emojis, rather than using them to create a play on words.

Case Study #5

In this case, the message itself was an emoji, .

The emoji usage here, , , , is another example of telling a story.


Emojis are great. To master their usage is an important, yet onerous task. Go out and try, fail, and try again. And if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

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