Thoughtful Thursday – Sarcasm Online

Posted February 5, 2015 by Emily in Blogging / 10 Comments


Why can’t someone invent a typography emphasis for sarcasm?

I feel like sarcasm is so hard to write in text, especially on the web where everything you say can be interrupted differently. It’s just so hard to say something in a sarcastic manner and not have it be taken the wrong way. For example, if I were to say something outrageous like “Yeah, because Harry Potter is the worst book ever written” online, some people would think I actually mean that HP is poorly written, even with the italics. They would just think I’m emphasizing just how bad HP is, not that I said it in a “no, really?!?” way. If I said it in real life, everyone most people would know, by the tone of my voice, that I was being sarcastic.

It’s just so hard to convey the idea that you are being sarcastic without a real way to differentiate it from regular text. Yes, italics work, but really only on small phrases. It just becomes confusing when you italicize a whole paragraph because the whole thing is written in a sarcastic manner. And I really don’t feel like writing “Oh, I was being sarcastic” over and over again.

In real life, I’m kind of known for my sarcasm and “sass”. Not so much online because whenever I write stuff, I always feel like it doesn’t translate well. In real life, it can come off as a bit mocking, only all my friends know I don’t mean anything I say, they know not to take any of the sarcasm that comes out of my mouth seriously, and more importantly, they know when I’m being sarcastic. (<-- That is also why italics isn't the best indicator of sarcasm. That last part of the sentence wasn't meant to be sarcastic, I merely italicized it because I wanted to emphasis it.) The problem is I’m usually not downright sarcastic. I’ve been told my sarcasm is more subtle and people usually know I’m being sarcastic by the tone of my voice and my facial expression, both of which you cannot find online. Apparently, my sarcasm can be hard to detect. Because of this, whenever I begin to type something sarcastic, something I might say in real life, whether in a review or in one of these kind of posts, I stop and delete it in fear that someone will be offended and take it the wrong way and that it will reflect poorly on my character. (This problem is even worse on Twitter than it is in blog posts… at least in a post there are some context clues that there’s a chance you’re being sarcastic. With Twitter, not so much.)

Do you have problems expressing sarcasm online?
How do you deal with it?
How do you denote it?



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10 responses to “Thoughtful Thursday – Sarcasm Online

  1. Several years ago I saw some circulation about adding a “sarc mark” to our standard punctuation options: something that would replace a period or comma as an indication that the sentence was meant sarcastically. I think this would be a HUGE benefit.

    Since it doesn’t exist, I do tend to tone down my sarcasm online. If I feel the need to actually be sarcastic, I normally try to put lots of context clues like adding a sooooooo or something in front of it. I’m not as attached to sarcasm as I used to be, so it’s easier for me to just not use it most of the time.

    What I REALLY struggle with is when I’m writing and I have characters that are being sarcastic. It feels silly to have dialog end with “she said sarcastically” in order to demonstrate the sarcasm. But I guess that’s what other narrative text is for, huh?

    • Nooo, I need someone to invent the sarc mark. It would make my life so much easier. Darn it!

      I have mixed feeling about toning down my sarcasm but I do it anyways. On one hand it just makes everything easier and leaves less room for stupid misunderstandings. On the other hand, it sometimes seems like I’m self censoring which I’m trying not to do as much this year. Oh well.

      Thanks for stopping by Liza! 🙂

  2. I’m just like you in real life. I’m totally sarcastic, but I feel really cautious about using sarcasm online. I’ve seen some people use the sarcasm mark at the end of posts, but I’m still a little….eh. I just don’t want anything to be taken the wrong way, you know?

    Lovely post!

    • Which sarcasm mark are you talking about? Maybe I should start using that too. I know just how you feel. Misunderstandings are the worst and then having to explain them…

      Thanks for stopping by Samantha! 🙂

  3. Yes. We definitely need a typography for sarcasm. Not only for blogging (where I have to fight for ways around how I want to express things sometimes because you can’t rely on the reader to understand you’re being sarcastic). But also in novels. I had such a hard time relaying that my characters were being sarcastic and thinking of new ways to express it. A standard typography would make things so much simpler! 🙂

  4. Beth

    I agree; sarcasm online is a really tough ticket. Sarcasm is one of my trademarks in real life, but I find that I often have to censor that part of my speech when I’m speaking online to someone I do not know very well. However, when I’m talking to someone who knows me well and is able to detect my sarcasm, I don’t really have to worry about it.
    To denote it, when I first start chatting with someone online, I denote all my sarcasm and jokes with a ” ;P ” face. Then, as they slowly get to know my online patterns better, I slowly get rid of the emoji, and eventually only use it for particularly harsh jabs.