Sarcasm is something that can easily cause misunderstandings in the off-line world. Online makes sarcasm even more difficult. You lose that eye contact, body language and tone of voice that helps to communicate your sarcastic comment.
Add to that, you have to be a pretty good writer to be able to successfully relay sarcasm with the written word. As well as making sure that the level of the sarcasm is what you want to portray.
The primary reason to avoid sarcasm in email is that you leave the level of sarcasm to be determined by the recipient. That’s pretty risky.
- A cutting, often ironic remark intended to wound.
- A form of wit that is marked by the use of sarcastic language and is intended to make its victim the butt of contempt or ridicule.
If you are not careful, sarcasm can be amplified by a power of 10. This can vary based on the situation, relationship and the emotions involved. The recipient may very well read into your sarcastic statement intent and tone that you did not mean. And much more than you intended.
Emoticons Help with Sarcasm
When you provide no indication that you are being humorous or sarcastic, that leaves room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding. This is where selectively using emoticons can be very helpful.
Trying to be sarcastic or funny? Add a 😉 after your statement to make sure the other side knows you are kidding. Otherwise, your comment will be taken at face value.
In professional email communications avoid sarcasm entirely. I’ve yet to see a situation where using sarcasm enhanced or clarified a situation. Instead your comment could be viewed as “rubbing salt in the wound”, perceived as condescending or worse, appear unprofessional.
In a personal email, sarcasm can harm relationships and make further communications ineffective. When you have the urge to be sarcastic think about the end result. As yourself:
- Is it to be funny?
- Make a point?
- To make someone feel bad (and inadvertently make yourself look petty)?
- Will your sense of humor be appreciated by the other side?
If you find you are being sarcastic in an email, first consider what your intentions are in doing so. Then read your email out loud before clicking send. You may find it’s best you wait until the next day to see if you feel the same.
Being sarcastic is rarely a positive thing. Unless you are a skilled and experienced communicator, it is best to leave sarcasm out of your emails altogether.