What does this symbol J

Irony in email can be dangerous. "We start late, as always," writes the sender in an invitation. If he wants to be absolutely sure that the punch line is understood, he prefers to add a smiley: "We start late as always :-)", that sounds completely different.

However, he has to fear that the e-mail will arrive at the recipient as follows: "As always, we will start late at J". This single, lost "J" at the end puzzles many mail users. A "K" or "L" can also appear. Google shows an impressive 13.6 million results for the search query "J Smiley Mail". There are still more than 200,000 hits for "Abbreviation J in an email".

How does the mysterious letter get there? Why do email programs show a single J, a K or an L instead of smileys?

Probably because the sender uses the widely used Outlook program from Microsoft. It is part of the Office suite that has 1.2 billion users worldwide. The company has given all Office programs such as Outlook, Word or Powerpoint a central auto correction that is activated by default. It is actually useful. It corrects spelling mistakes, for example turns "hopefully" from "hopefully" or "Windows" from "Widnows". In addition, the auto-correction function creates correct sentences from short forms. So "sgdh" automatically becomes "Dear Sir or Madam".

The problem with MS Outlook lies in the Wingdings font

What is less practical is that the autocorrect converts text smileys into symbols. The three emoticons are affected: :),: | and :(. The long forms with a hyphen are also converted, so :-),: - | and :-(.

The autocorrection displays the character combinations in the Wingdings font. It consists only of symbols and has been supplied by Microsoft with Windows since 1992. Back then, image files hardly fit on the hard drive. Combining them with text was very cumbersome. Wingdings solved the problem and users could enrich texts with simple graphics. Today, however, the font looks superfluous and strange.

What the capital letters J, K and L are in normal fonts, the smileys in Wingdings are laughing, neutral and sad - after all, Wingdings doesn't know any real letters.

The problem: Some computers don't have Wingdings installed, so they can't do anything with Outlook's smileys. They therefore display the symbol in normal letters. A friendly :-) becomes an incomprehensible J. But even if the font is available, the individual letters can still appear. For example, if another user forwards an email without Wingdings.

Here's how Outlook users change AutoCorrect

Outlook users can avoid the Wingdings smileys. If the autocorrection has converted a combination of characters into an emoticon, it is sufficient to press the backspace key: the small image becomes the text smiley again. E-mails that are only written in text mode and not in the preset HTML mode do not display any Wingdings symbols either. To do this, Outlook users select the "Text only" mode in the "Options" tab when they write a new mail. You have to do without formatting or embedded images in this mode.

The Wingdings smileys can also be completely banished by changing the autocorrection yourself. A change to these settings affects all Office programs. For example, Word will also no longer convert smileys after the autocorrect in Outlook has been adjusted.

For Outlook 2007 it works like this: Under "Extras" the user has to open the "Options". Then he comes to the editing options via the "Spelling" tab and the "Spelling and AutoCorrection" button. After clicking on "Autocorrect Options", the entries can be changed. To do this, users have to scroll to the smileys, select them and click on the "Delete" button to remove them. Then no e-mail recipient should be surprised about individual Js, Ks and Ls.

Outlook 2010 users can find the settings under "File", "Options", "E-Mail", "Editing Options", "Document Review", "Autocorrect Options".