You can chat online until your fingers are raw, but you still can't convey the emotional subtlety of tete-a-tete conversation. That's why emoticons were invented, those clever keyboard images designed to punctuate online palaver with a fillip of feeling. Some have become well known: ;-) is a wink and a smile (in other words, aren't I ironic?). But the art form has spread beyond its first primitive symbols to become an increasingly complex form of Net expression. Herewith a quick sampling of the latest in postliterate sign language:

:'-) (I'm shedding a tear of joy)

3;-} (I'm giving you a devilish...

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