General Question

richardhenry's avatar

How do you denote sarcasm/humor in written text?

Asked by richardhenry (12623 points ) June 24th, 2008

I’ve seen an increase in the use of the tilde (~) at the end of sentences to denote a sarcastic or humorous remark. Which methods do you prefer or would like to promote, and why? Which do you think is the most effective?

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31 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Well, it was just a Fluther thing to use the tilde. After we implemented it, someone found an irony mark, and I think a sarcasm mark. I would be happy to switch to those. Whatever the majority wants.

jlm11f's avatar

I like the idea of the ~ but I haven’t quite gotten used to it yet. My only problem with the ~ is that I often don’t notice it (its tiny) at the end of a sentence. I also like italics to denote sarcasm. Maybe a combination of italics & ~ would work?

richardhenry's avatar

@Marina: I’ve seen the tilde being used long before I was a Fluther member, actually. I used to get it in emails from a friend, and on IM. (Although sparingly.) I never thought to ask where people had picked it up from.

robmandu's avatar

More related reading: Who else thinks we should have punctuation to denote sarcasm?

@richardhenry, wow! So you’ve actually seen it used out in the real world?!? Hmmm, now that I read back thru it, @jasonjackson says he saw “proposals”.

Kay's avatar

The tilde always messes me up because in logic it means “not” or a negation. So ”~a” means “not a.”

richardhenry's avatar

@robmandu: Ah, missed that discussion. Damn. Apologies, I should do better.

@Kay: I agree. Also, I end up reevaluating the sentence in my head because you only notice it when you reach the end.

Knotmyday's avatar

Wouldn’t it follow, then, that a stand-alone tilde following a statement would connote “Not!”
As in, “Coldplay is the coolest band on the planet. Not!”
Popularized by Mike Myers in Waynes World.

El_Cadejo's avatar

hmm i usually dont denote sarcasm, ill occasionally do <sarcasm> </sarcasm> but i like the idea of ~, maybe throw it at the beginning of the sentence rather than end so you know its a sarcastic remark while your reading it instead of after you’ve already finished.

richardhenry's avatar

@robmandu: Yup, on Yay Hooray. (The bitch-fest that that website is.) I’d find some examples, but their search sucks and it isn’t indexed by Google other than acknowledging the existence of the domain.

marinelife's avatar

@richardhenry I never saw that before. Interesting.

What do people think about the other irony marks?

Spargett's avatar

Still don’t like the tilde.

robmandu's avatar

@spargett, alternatives for you to use are:

- html container-type tags: <sarcasm> </sarcasm>
– inverted exclamation point: ¡
– the caret: ^ (similar in appearance to an arched eyebrow)
– wink: ;-)
– tongue out: :-P
– italics: Oh, really?

And then, in cases where you intend to denote irony, use the irony mark: ؟ (a backwards question mark).

richardhenry's avatar

@robmandu: To me, the caret means “I’m referring to the above post”. Does anyone else use it for this purpose?

robmandu's avatar

Well, that’s the nub of the problem, isn’t it. There’s no universally-accepted convention.

Even the irony mark, which was created for a very specific purpose is unrecognizable to the vast majority, and hence, is gibberish for all intents and purposes.

Fluther Collective chose tilde given all available choices. I’ll stick with that.

~ FTW!

richardhenry's avatar

@robmandu: I’ll be using the tilde around here then, at your recommendation. I’m surprised I missed that original discussion.

gailcalled's avatar

Taking a different approach, I wonder whether we can recognize real humor or irony by the style and quality of the writing. I read Woody Allen, David Foster Wallace, Dave Barry, Art Buchwald, etc., and laugh without needing special punctuation to remind me.

People here make me laugh, too; I think particularly of Hossman, CWilbur..now sadly gone, and a googleplex gaggle of good writers whom I will not list (not wishing to offend anyone).

Bri_L's avatar

I agree with gailcalled. I also think that truly good sarcasm doesn’t need a great big sign. Much like the punch line of a joke, you should kind of know when you’ve been hit.

I always try to make my meaning clear by the way I state it. And, if there is any concern that I might be taken sarcastically, clarify that I was not trying to be so.

jacksonRice's avatar

i don’t think a sentence is ironic if the wit is spelled out. good dry sarcasm isn’t at all useful if there’s a punctuation mark calling attention to it. sarcasm should be a little bit biting; should leave someone wondering if it was halfway serious.

gailcalled's avatar

@Bri and Jack; I concur. Think of the people who start a joke by announcing that “this is really funny,” and then it isn’t. Or broadcasting that your pun, or often your non-pun is “no pun intended.” Let the listener decide.

robmandu's avatar

I hear ya, @bri, @jack, and @gail. And it could be that sarcasm is not the right tool for the job when attempting a perfectly amicable exchange with a friend.

But, in those cases where I’ve (clumsily) attempted it, the friend is put off by what appears to be a mean or spiteful remark.

Since we don’t have the benefit of facial expressions and body language here, and also since our Fluther friends are often little more to us than cute avatars and occasional insight or witticism, I, for one, welcome the additional ligature as a way to help me competently convey my intended meaning.

It beats the hell out of sending a PM after the fact to explain, apologize, set the record straight.

marinelife's avatar

@robmandu I agree that in this arena it can be useful.

marcospereira's avatar

I just use an explicit way to denote it. By explicit I mean anyone could understand it. Per instance,

<sarcasm>my sarcastic comment here</sarcasm>

Any people reading this stuff will understand it. I also avoid to write sarcastic comments when writing emails to my boss. Or at least I don’t put the marks. :-P

trickface's avatar

Tilde is an awful name for a punctuation mark. Blech.

gailcalled's avatar

Short for Mathilda (also known as Tilly.)

Response moderated
nicobanks's avatar

The tilde is small (easy to miss) and not at all easy to understand or figure out if you don’t know what it means. I like the straightforward sarcasm tag: ”</sarcasm>”.

Arp's avatar

This was a terrible question~

Response moderated
OpenSarcasm's avatar

The inverted exclamation point is the simplest way to indicate sarcasm in plain text and with only a single character: ¡

The mark originates in Ethiopic language, and we at Open Sarcasm are leading a crusade to promote its usage worldwide. More info available on our site.

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