Over the past two decades, as people increasingly communicate by email, text and other means involving the internet, a number of different writing conventions have sprung up.
For example, it’s very common to use emojis to emphasize how we feel about something, and most people by now are aware that “LOL” means “laughing out loud,” or that you think something is funny.
Unfortunately, we’re not all picking up on those conventions at the same rate, and sometimes, nearly all of us occasionally run across an abbreviation or symbol we don’t understand.
For example, do you know what it means when someone says “don’t @ me“?
This might be the case if you’ve ever seen /j in an email, which is even more mysterious than the usual internet-specific conventions. Keep reading to find out why!
What does /j mean in emails?
Using /j (at the end of a sentence) indicates that the sender is joking about something. If the email just has a J without the slash, it is probably a smiley emoji sent from someone using Microsoft Outlook as their email client that is not displaying in the correct format on your computer.
Is it “/j” or “J”?
At this point, the internet has been around for so long that there has been enough time for new conventions to appear, get widely used, and fade away.
It used to be that when people meant to indicate a joke, they would write /jk. You still see this, but among younger users especially, this has been shortened to /j.
You might need to take a look at the context of the email to figure out if the person means that they are making a joke or if they mean something else.
If what you are looking it is just a “J,” then the person probably sent you a smiley face using Microsoft Outlook as their email client.
Of course, a joke and a smiley face are pretty similar, so given the context, sometimes either of those meanings could be correct.
Why is it a good idea to use /j when you are joking? Sometimes, what you write in an email doesn’t come across as a joke even if you mean it that way.
If there’s one thing that a couple of decades of widespread internet usage has taught us, it’s that misunderstandings can crop up very easily.
It would be nice to imagine that we are so good with words that our meaning is always very clear, but sadly, this is just not always the case.
If there’s any doubt at all that your message will be misunderstood, using /j (or /jk) to indicate that you’re making a joke is a good idea.
And if you have received a message that you aren’t sure about and it includes a /j, you can be sure that the person is just gently joking with or teasing you and wants to make sure that you know that too.
Background of why “J” appears in emails
Sometimes, you might create an emoji using keyboard symbols. For a smiley face, you would type 🙂 or 🙂
If someone types this in a message to you and they are using Microsoft Outlook as their email client, the system uses a font called Wingdings to convert this to a smiley face.
If you don’t have the Wingdings font on your computer, it will show up for you as just a J.
This is why you might receive an email with “J” appearing what appears to be randomly in one or more places, perhaps without the forward slash.
That said, it used to be that Macs and other computers operating in a non-Windows environment did not have Wingdings as a font, but these days, it is pretty common for most computers to have it.
Still, you might not, and if so, you are likely to be puzzled by receiving a message peppered with what seems like random occurrences of the letter J.
This is also something that is common in messages that have been forwarded a lot.
The reason is that if the smiley does not convert for one person in the chain of forwarded emails, it will remain that way on all subsequent forwards, even if the next people in the chain do have Wingdings.
Let’s look at a few examples that use both /j and J to get an idea of when you might see these.
Examples of emails that use /j and J
What might you think if you got an email that said this?
You might wonder whether the person was serious or not. If you considered the person a good friend, you might even be a little bit hurt that they thought this about you.
However, maybe the email looked like this:
Here, they have included a /j, which lets you know that they are just teasing.
What if the email said this?
Maybe you know what /j means, but you’re totally confused by this.
Is it a typo? Did they mean to write /j or something else?
Of course, now you know that the person probably sent a smiley face and that it wasn’t rendered correctly when it arrived on your computer.
This is similar to /j, so again, you know that the person doesn’t meant for you to take it seriously.
Here’s another example:
“It was wonderful to meet you the other night. J”
In the above example, it’s important to know that this is a smiley and not a joke. Smiley reinforces that the person really means it while /j would not be very nice!
Of course, the biggest lesson you can take away from this is that it’s best not to make big assumptions from texts, emails or social media replies that you receive.
Sometimes it’s hard to determine someone’s meaning without a shadow of a doubt. When you aren’t sure, it’s best just to ask them—over phone, video or in person, not in writing!
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.