Your Sarcasm Filter Sucks

from the either-that-or-you're-just-not-funny dept

By now, it’s pretty obvious written sarcasm is extremely difficult to convey. Any time anyone tries to write sarcastically online there’s a large population of people who just don’t get it. At all. There just aren’t enough browsers that recognize sarcasm HTML tags. In the past, we’ve noted that such lack of sarcastic reading skills has resulted in trouble in the workplace when people didn’t get or didn’t appreciate attempts at humorous emails — though it differs by nationality. Now there’s yet another study supporting this. Apparently people were asked to write funny or sarcastic emails, and then others were asked to determine how funny or sarcastic the emails were and most didn’t see the humor at all. Of course, as is pointed out in the post, the other possibility is that the writers just weren’t particularly funny in the first place.

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Comments on “Your Sarcasm Filter Sucks”

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j4kk (user link) says:


Sarcasm is a difficult subject, and it comes in many forms. I know one girl, for example, who has such sarcastic humor that it almost comes across as mean. The kind of sarcasm that I like it the almost silly kind, where you just go over the top, and USUALLY people can tell that you’re just being sarcastic.

Often on my forum i’ll use the mock tag [sarcasm][/sarcasm] or in IM conversations because some people just don’t get it. Anything you say online is going to be taken totally differnetly than what you will say in real life, so you’ll have to be more careful, especially with things that rely purely on the tone of your voice and your inflection/body movements, such as sarcasm generally does. You can use it with the right people online, but do not tick off your girlfriend on IM because you were ‘sarcastic!’

ElectricMayhem says:


No, it’s not hard to convey sarcasm, if you use the English language and punctuation correctly. Half the trouble is, 90% of Americans just don’t ‘do’ sarcasm and strangle the language anyway and since the standard of education in Britain has been buggered about by successive governments, 90% of the British can’t read and write.

A half way decent writer should be able to convey sarcasm using tone and inflection in the words……read some of the great novelists and writers both American and British….brilliant exponents of their art. Miller, Twain, Shakespeare et al

Try Oscar Wilde for a start….sarcasm!!…….his words literally just drip with it.

The problem, my darlings, is a woeful lack of education…….oh and sense of humour…..very important components……

Toodle Pip

ConceptJunkie (profile) says:

Re: Sarcasm

Yeah, it figures a Brit would be bragging about his sarcasm abilities. I guess you gotta brag about something… it certainly isn’t your food or your teeth.

Some of us Americans can do sarcasm very well, thank you very much.

(Not using smilies to enforce the thesis of the article)

Seriously though, I think you’re right. It’s more of an issue of communication skills than anything. I communicate on-line a _lot_, and I’m also someone who loves to joke around (see above). There’s a fine line between being clear you’re joking and completely losing the humor. Reminds me of when you see a really funny scene in a movie, and then the joke is explained. That totally ruins it. It takes a little effort to create ad appreciate good humor, and given that our communication skills as a whole are dropping precipitously, these kinds of problems are bound to happen.

Nonetheless, readers, as well as writers, should try to be a little sensitive of the limitations of the written medium. Our forebears in the 19th-century and earlier relied solely on written words to communicate with people outside of earshot, and they didn’t have this problem. Surely we’re smarter then they are, right? Right?

George Bush for God!

Amerika uber alles!

Go on world, try to stop us!

Anonymous Coward says:


That is correct, ElectricMayhem! I am SOOO sure that those figures you gave are real and not just numbers you made up off the top of your head. Thank you SOOO much for your intelligent contribution. I feel at least 90% smarter now, having read your post. But what do I KNOW? I’m just a STUPID American educated in our HORRIBLE school system.

claire rand says:

school daze

ok so your an american educated by your horrible education system.. well i’m a brit and ours is worse so take that and smoke it…

hang on…

reckon mesa not meant to boast bout that.

i blame my schooling.

the brit & yank sense of humour is *different* sarcasm and irony both suffer through this. if i read something written stateside thats a bit offensive, i tend to just assume it makes more sense over there.

people are too ready to take afence, me i’ll just take the gate and leave it at that…


btw mark twain wipes the floor with shakspear anyday. and just *try* writing like shakespear in a school these days, dunno what wuz worse his grammar or spelling, talk about out of date…


i’ll get me coat..

ZA says:

Re: school daze

You give a perfect example of how poor grammar and spelling take any sarcasm out of witing.

I am still wondering where you are taking the fence, the gate or whatever you are talking about?

I like the Monty Python type of Brittish humor.

I agree with someone’s statement above, it is all in the punctuation and choice of words. If you can’t pick up a sarcastic tone directly from the writing, you never will. What’s worse, some people’s writing oozes with sarcasm, and they don’t even know it.

Charon says:

Re: school daze

Claire Rand, you are out of your mind if you think Mark Twain is more skillful than Shakespeare. Although he was a masterful author all he did was use elisions to put ebonics into text. Shakespeare not only created his masterful plots but somehow managed to have all of the conversations and monolouges not only in iambic pentameter but ryhming! One would think a brit might know something about Shakespeares talent…. I guess youre schooling is as bad as you say it is.

pp says:

make it stop

OMG You guys sound pathetic! It’s like your trying to show how smart you are but you’re doing the complete opposite. I mean damn, since when did your stupid rambaling become a case… jeeeesss!!

Serious. Sr. claire rand s’bout the most intelgent sounding post yet and it was painful to read!! Sorry man you do that!

Jake says:

The Article Points The Problem Out Very Well.

It has nothing to do with medium, and more to do with the fact that most people are not funny.

“Of course, as is pointed out in the post, the other possibility is that the writers just weren’t particularly funny in the first place. ”

As illustrated in many of the posts above, where users are apparently trying to be sarcastic, it would seem that many of us simply confuse sarcasm with being mean.

Rikko says:

Bad grammar

I think ElectricMayhem was right on the money.. When I read a post by someone that is all lowercase, utterly devoid of correct punctuation, and probably all smeared into a single paragraph to boot, I perceive them as unintelligent. If they aren’t smart enough to be able to correct write out what they want to say, are they smart enough to grasp and express a concept like sarcasm? Perhaps, but the lowest-common-denominator posts you typically read are more reminescent of resentful and stupid 15 year olds (no offense 15 year olds, 15 is today’s number) and not someone with ideas and an open mind.

txjump says:

Re: Bad grammar

thats just not nice. ya know, some of us know how to write perfectly well but in this arena, capitalization is not that important. and neither is punctuation, that is unless it is key to your sarcasm.

but, if you are going to slam others as unintelligent, perhaps you should double check your own single paragraph complete with error.

“be able to correct write out … “

|333173|3|_||3 says:

This always works on the forum I always used to post on (it died after an attack by a hacker b/c the owner had too little time to fix the mess he made, and so all the users left), the software used to open a page of stuff in an iframe if you used [sarcasm]
In any case, even a moron in a hurry should be able to understand that.

Sorry for necro’ing the thread.

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