For years, I’ve received emails that have capital ‘J’s thrown in at the end of seemingly random sentences. It’s never been a big deal, but it has always baffled me.

For example, I just received an email that contained the following bit:

Ha, I didn’t mean to reply to everyone! I am glad I didn’t say anything bad. J Thank you for…

What in the world is that J doing there?

I’ve speculated all this time of what people could mean. At first, I thought that it was a short for “I’m joking,” but it would only sometimes make sense in that context. The other odd thing is that the J is always rendered in a different font than the rest of the text.

I would claim that this mystery has kept me up some nights, but that would be just a little bit more than a standard exaggeration.

Finally, today I stumbled upon an answer. Not only does it explain why the J would appear in contexts that would both be joking and not joking, but it also explains the odd font deal. If I had been observant or caring enough, I might have noticed another pattern, the odd appearance of J only happened when the sender sent the message from Outlook.

The simple answer to the crazy mystery of the ‘J’s is that Microsoft uses a Wingding to render a smily in Outlook. The Wingding happyface happens to be at the same position as a J in the standard ASCII sets. So, on all clients other than Outlook, it renders as an out-of-place looking J.

Yay! Another example of Microsoft not following standards. Why use the near universal understanding that ‘:’ followed by ‘)’ is a code for happyface and can be interpreted by software if desired when you can just use one of your proprietary fonts instead?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an anti-Microsoft zealot, I just wish that the software from Microsoft played nicer with the other children in the playground. Don’t even get me started on “smart” quotes and how many companies, not just Microsoft, have dropped the ball on that one creating an amazing nightmare for humble coders like me that have to deal with their mess.