Friday, June 24, 2016

7 Absolutely Essential Tips for Writing Sarcastically

Ah. The post you all thought you wanted. It's finally here. Hannah writing an instructional about how to incorporate sarcasm into writing. What could possibly go wrong?
Before we get started, I am going to make two things abundantly clear. The word sarcasm? It  doesn't mean what you think it means. In fact, when you use the word "sarcasm," the word you are looking for is probably "irony." See, irony is a type of humor where you express your meaning by using words or phrases that generally mean the opposite. Sarcasm is a subset of irony which uses irony in a malicious or slanderous way.

So, technically, I'm not sarcastic. At least not mostly. Maybe about 12%. The other 88% is ironic. Betcha didn't know that. Many thanks to my ironic, English-teacher of an Aunt for explaining that to me.

That being cleared up, I will now use the word "irony" throughout this post. Unusual, I know, since nobody uses correct English online anymore. Hopefully I don't destroy a whole fragile system.

Also, this post is going to be ironic. Very, very ironic. Some tips may be serious, but some may not be. How will you be able to tell the difference? Hm. Good question. I'll let you know once I figure out the answer.

Tip #1: Use irony to expose the ignorance and ridiculousness of a person or situation. You know when people are stupid in movies and the only way to straighten them out is to slap them across the face? That's what irony is for in writing. Except, if done incorrectly, rather than knocking some sense into them, it can knock what little sense there was right out of their brain. Irony is a very delicate thing. Use responsibly. 

Tip #2: Everybody speaks irony, so don't be afraid to use liberally. It's not as if you're going to hurt anybody's feelings. When you use irony, everyone will know that you're using it and will probably laugh at your cleverness. It rarely happens that people will overlook your genius. Some suggest that you should make it abundantly clear from the start that you're not serious, perhaps by putting up a warning sign or overdosing right out the gate to show the ridiculousness of your words. Me? I don't think that's the way it should be handled. 

Tip #3: Pair irony with a serious statement. Irony can be made better by using it as comic-relief in a dark moment. If you have a dark storyline, break it up with something ironic. It's best to give this 'breaking the darkness' role to one character, generally a brooding guy with dark hair and an "I'm ironic" sign hanging from his forehead. It's not as if other writers commonly do this. It's definitely not annoying, especially if it's mean-spirited or unrealistic. 

Tip #4: Use all the punctuation and fonts! You can *never* overdose on all the awesome and ~totally helpful~ symbols, italics, and all-caps that your keyboard has to offer. When in doubt, ALWAYS convey your irony through the usage of these glorious keys. Winky smiley faces are also great and never frowned upon by editors. ;) I mean, if you didn't use these tools, people might be forced to use their brains. Last time that happened, people decided to put a 10-minute dance scene in Spider-Man 3. Oh. Wait. Maybe that's what happened when people don't use their brain? I'm not sure. All of this thinking is hurting me. 

Tip #5: Exaggeration and deadpanning have no place in irony. Ever. You think I'm kidding? I'm not. 

Tip #6: Take lessons from some of the great ironic writers and characters. Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), Jonathan Swift (A Modest Proposal), Mark Watney (The Martian), William Golding (The Princess Bride), Jane Austen, Iron Man, Eeyore, Loki, Rocket Raccoon, Alfred Pennyworth, practically every character from Harry Potter. 

Tip #7: Understand that irony can get old very fast. Some people can write entire books in an ironic tone and people love it, while others can't even make it past the first 10 pages without annoying everyone. Generally, self-deprecating or all-inclusive irony is more acceptable than sarcasm when writing for long periods of time. However, it can be really hard to gauge when you've gone too far, so it's best to stop when you're ahead. For example, I'm currently not sure whether this post is making you laugh or really getting on your nerves, so I'm going to stop now. Sorry. Or you're welcome. Whichever fits. 

And there you have it. A very clear guide on how to write ironically. 

One thing you should be aware of: With great irony comes great responsibility. Try not to use this type of humor to be hurtful. It's not nice and can wound other's feelings. Whatever those are. 

What do you think? Is this a good guide for writing ironically? What tips would you add? Actually, I don't really care. Don't leave any comments. Most definitely do not share this posts with your friends and followers. And it's not like I want you to subscribe to my blog or anything crazy like that.

Related articles:
9 Ways to Use Reading to Improve Your Writing

29 comments:

  1. Me, leave a sarcastic (ironic?) comment? Never! Why would anybody suggest such a thing? Tip #6 is particularly helpful, though it's true irony can be hit or miss. I've always found Swift's A Modest Proposal deeply disturbing more than anything. Thanks for another great post!

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    1. Pffft. I know, right? Sarcasm is totally unlike us.

      Yeah, I remember taking an English class a while back where we had to read A Modest Proposal. Me and the professor were just about the only ones who found it genius. Everyone else was creeped out. I guess it's an acquired taste.

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    2. The really disturbing thong about "A Modest Proposal" is that when he published it there were people who did not notice the sarcasm at all and still thought it was a brilliant. Like they thought he was seriously advocating cannibalism and they completely agreed with him.

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    3. Whoa. This I did not know. Very disturbing.

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    4. #6 is quite good, but I can't help but add to your list with Ambrose Bierce. He's got quite the knack for definitions.

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  2. Posts like this remind me why I love your blog ;)

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  3. This was brilliant, I have to say. Some people (siblings) think you have to use ridiculous voices in order to show that you're not serious.

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  4. Great post! (And that was not irony, I promise). I've honestly gotten to the point where I'm not even sure when I'm being serious or sarcastic, but for some reason I still struggle with putting that tone into my writing. So this was super helpful!

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    1. Lol! Thank you for your non-ironic compliment, Maggie. =) I'm glad it helped you! I also have a hard time turning my irony off, but my problem is the opposite: It leaks in even when I don't want it to. Hmmm. Hopefully we can both fix our problems in the 'ironic writing' department.

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  5. Ha! This was a splendid post Hannah, I can tell you had a good time writing it.
    Your tips are very good, and I'll be back to refer to them often!
    Irony is one of my favorite words, and sarcasm done well can be fun, as you mentioned.
    Sherlock Holmes often uses phrases dripping with irony, usually the good kind.
    (The Jeremy Brett version is my favorite, and though Benedict Cumberbatch's version is pretty cool he comes off way to sarcastic almost caustic).
    Also, the first several seasons of the original NCIS TV show is full of witty comebacks that border sarcastic but flop over into being ironic most of the time. Especially anything that Gibbs says. Pretty much everything Gibbs says is irony, but the good kind.
    Oh, and Raymond Reddington on The Blacklist. Very good wise irony and sarcasm there, from James Spader.
    The Left Behind books are really good. As are The Drovers Road Collection, I think you'd really enjoy these!

    Thanks again for your time and effort in sharing these posts!

    --Paige.

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    1. I can't say I've watched much of The Blacklist (I watch a few episodes here and there), but I agree, Reddington is fantastic with irony. James Spader does an amazing job with his character!

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    2. Thank you so much, Paige! I'm happy to have helped!

      Sherlock Holmes is a great example of irony. I feel like a lot of British authors implement that form of humor. I've never seen any of those TV shows, but they sound fun. I'll have to check out The Drovers Road Collection, too. Thanks for the great comment!

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  6. Another super-informative post, Hannah. I especially love how you draw the distinction at the beginning of the post between sarcasm and irony. I agree that everybody is well-versed in the language of irony, but also true is that in recent years authors have abused it - or so I feel. It's like you say, there are a few select ones who can get away with this sort of excess, but personally I find many titles simply annoying and tiresome at this point. The world is not filled with snarky girls who can deliver fabulous one-liners as easily as breathing. Also, if you want me to take your characters seriously, you have to provide me with a serious character, lol :D Finally, not everyone is equally gifted - some writers are more fluent than others in this tongue-in-cheek lingo, right? You have to admit that some of these attempts can be pretty cringeworthy... Awesome post! Hugs

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    1. Yes, it is annoying that so many characters nowadays are running around with snarky one-liners for every response. Not at all realistic. And I agree with your comment: I will take a character seriously only if he/she is capable of being serious. =D

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

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  7. Great post! I'm a huge fan of ironic writing; perhaps that is why I keep finding my way back to your blog. You handle irony well. I'm sure this stems from the fact that you have a clear understanding of the definitions of both irony and sarcasm (as most people use the term sarcasm for all things ironic); and that you do not have a desire to be malicious.

    I have a tendency toward irony in conversation, especially when I'm feeling uncomfortable or overwhelmed in a situation; but I try carefully not to roll into the realm of true sarcasm. When something malicious doesn't come out of my mouth and I take the time to apologize to someone for being sarcastic the usual response from the other person is confusion; from their perspective I'm always sarcastic so why would I be asking forgiveness on this particular occasion. It use to annoy me. Now I just look at it as an opportunity to explain the difference.

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    1. Thanks! I try to wield irony for the greater good of mankind. =D

      It's awesome that you are able to catch yourself being sarcastic. Many people aren't able to tell when they've gone too far, and this often translates into their writing where they have mean characters. I'm sure you'll never stray into this area. Go you!

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  8. This blog post hurt my brain. But totally in a good way. ;D *claps in appreciation of all the irony*

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    1. Lol! *bows* It hurt my brain too, and I'm the one who wrote it. =)

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  9. Just stumbled across this post...and now I'm hooked on your blog! I feel like nailing the right sarcastic/ ironic tone is especially important in YA novels- if it doesn't feel authentic, it just falls flat! Great tips!

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    1. I am so glad to hear that, Ellen! I agree: authentic irony is very important in young adult novels. Some authors pull it off marvelously, and others…just need a little bit of help. =) Thank you for the comment! I look forward to hearing more from you!

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  10. Yeah... I don't care too much about irony. It's usually performed with a nocking almost retarded voice and is so screaming obvious that I can't care for it, unless it's the irony that will, in its adulthood, become sarcasm (lots of Harry Potter lines). Sarcasm is about insulting someone without them even knowing it, or creating relations that are absurd and still perfectly relatable ("this tastes like a plumber's handkerchief") and always delivered through deadpan. And it HAS to be exaggerated, otherwise it won't work, it will pass as stupidity (no matter the writer's intentions). And egocentric. Everybody else is stupid and thick, except the sarcastic one. That's why we love sarcasm when we identify it in a book. We feel smart because we can understand it, and we can relate to the sarcastic character, and oh, I wish I could have said that in my daily life! It's all about the ego. That's one more reason why it's so frowned upon, I think.

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  11. Yeah... I don't care too much about irony. It's usually performed with a nocking almost retarded voice and is so screaming obvious that I can't care for it, unless it's the irony that will, in its adulthood, become sarcasm (lots of Harry Potter lines). Sarcasm is about insulting someone without them even knowing it, or creating relations that are absurd and still perfectly relatable ("this tastes like a plumber's handkerchief") and always delivered through deadpan. And it HAS to be exaggerated, otherwise it won't work, it will pass as stupidity (no matter the writer's intentions). And egocentric. Everybody else is stupid and thick, except the sarcastic one. That's why we love sarcasm when we identify it in a book. We feel smart because we can understand it, and we can relate to the sarcastic character, and oh, I wish I could have said that in my daily life! It's all about the ego. That's one more reason why it's so frowned upon, I think.

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  12. You cracked me up by adding Alfred Pennyworth to the ironic character list! Thank you so much for this article XD

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    1. Lol! Thanks. I always think of him as "Alfred Pennyworth: King of Sass." =D I'm glad you liked this post!

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  13. I like to use small bits of irony in my narration to tease my characters. Like, I'll express their more ridiculous thoughts, feelings, and reasoning on a matter as though I were on their side, and try to make it sound ever-so-slightly dramatic. Not like I'm pounding the irony over the reader's head (I hope), but more like I'm affectionately snickering at my own characters' stupidity or the weird and/or silliness of a situation. Is this acceptable, do you think, sensei?

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    1. I think this sounds like a lot of fun! I would certainly read a book like this. There's nothing more entertaining that ganging up on a character with the character's own author. =D So yes, totally acceptable! Go you!

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    2. Yay! Thank you, and thanks for the reply!

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