J Smiley Outlook Email: Problem and Fix!

What’s up with that J, yo?

I’m going to assume you’re using Microsoft Outlook 2010 at this point – or you know someone who uses it. But even if you’re not in either camp, you should pay attention.

The following fix applies to every single Microsoft Office program that uses its universal AutoCorrect feature. I’ve tried to address this problem with the Office team directly, but have been routinely ignored. I’m not slagging Outlook, either; I used and loved Outlook 98 / 2000 for the greater part of a decade (because 2003 and 2007 were inferior for non-Exchange users in many ways, but that’s not what I’m writing about today).

Essentially, you’re going to fix a bug that Microsoft has kept open for several years. Well, it’s not a true bug – so long as you NEVER email someone who isn’t running Windows, and so long as you DO NOT use HTML email. Not likely. It bugs just about everybody who doesn’t live in Outlook.

For some inexplicable reason, somebody at Microsoft thought it wise to autocorrect “:)” as a truer smiley when composing rich text documents and/or HTML email – rendering it in a specific font face (WingDings). This is why people think you’re crazy for injecting a random “J” in emails – they don’t have the same font(s) installed on their machine! And even if you have WingDings installed, you may only still see a J where a smile should clearly be.

So, there’s a simple fix that’ll make your emails 100% more intelligible (as far as smiles are concerned). Delete the autocompletes.

  1. Open Microsoft Outlook (if it’s not already open).
  2. Fire up the Options panel (found under the File ribbon).
  3. Click open the Mail tab. You should see a “Spelling and Autocorrect…” button. The “Editor Options” panel will launch.
  4. From there, click the “AutoCorrect Options…” button. The “AutoCorrect: English (U.S.)” properties pane is what you should see next.
  5. Under the default “AutoCorrect” tab, look to the “Replace text as you type” section.
  6. Click the “Delete” button.
  7. Repeat these steps for the other smiley autoreplacements.

Enough with the J stuff, already. πŸ˜‰

I want to call your attention to another Office QA oversight. They mis-capitalized “AutoCorrect” (leaving the “C” in lowercase within this particular pane). That wasn’t my typo.

Yes, I notice the small stuff – and then I do my best to fix these problems for the entire galaxy. You could replace the WingDing’ed smiley with a UNICODE smiley, but you may run into other encoding issues at that point. If you want to have more fun with UNICODE characters, check out funicode.com.


  1. Pingback: Get Rid Of The Smiley J Problem In Microsoft Office Applications | Lifehacker Australia

  2. Thanks for the tip, Chris! I usually do the Wingdings smiley by hand (pre-OLK2K10), I’ll start using the Unicode version now.

    The funicode link doesn’t work, sadly; it asks for a user/pwd.

  3. Thanks for showing us why this happens, Chris. Now, what do we do about all these Js we are receiving from other people? I know a lot of tech-purists would say that if the sender can’t or won’t change their Outlook settings because we don’t like the Js then we should bin their mails, but we live in the real world. Is my GMail cursed for eternity with the J?


  4. “Yes, I notice the small shit – and then I do my best to fix these problems for the entire galaxy.” You and Steve Jobs. Really, that’s why Apple products are insanely great; Jobs also notices the small shit and won’t release until it gets fixed. Microsoft, OTOH, never seems to give a crap, so their usability sucks.

  5. This only works for me if I specify RTF as the message format. My default format is HTML, and it seems to ignore the autocorrect rules I just added. (I’m using Outlook 2003 and have restarted since making the change.) Any ideas?

  6. How do you revert? This turned all my smileys into 😐 guys instead of smileys. I want my smileys back; I’ll deal with the Js. πŸ™

  7. Why not just remove the πŸ™‚ and πŸ™‚ from the autocorrection settings altogether in office? That’s what I did.

  8. Thanks for that! I thought I was just out of it (as usual) and not understanding some new web/txt abbreviation that all the cool kids were using. LOL J

  9. Oh guys honestly
    Yes it is kind of annoying this problem, but Microsoft knows about this for several editions as you’ve said and I suppose they have their reasons to not change it. It is normal that a company is developping things that only work in “their” environement, if you really want to complain about something then please complain about the crappy search, THAT is a problem for everyone.

  10. “This is why people think you’re crazy for inserting random β€œJ” characters in your emails”

    Hmm no, people just think that you are stupid to use Outlook πŸ™‚

  11. As annoying as it is, is there a way to deal with other people’s AutoCorrect on your end? If I add “wingdings” font to my fonts will it solve it? Do they even make that font for Mac?

  12. this doesn’t work for Outlook 2003. the only way I can figure out how to not have my πŸ™‚ to turn into a smiley is to not use microsoft word πŸ™