Sarcasm in writing is fun, but it’s also dangerous — what if no one gets I’m being sarcastic or ironic?

How the heck do I communicate sarcasm without ruining the fun? It turns out we can, in multiple different ways, depending on which medium you’re using.

In print

Irony punctuation

  • Written English lacks a standard way to mark irony, and several forms of punctuation have been proposed
  • English printer Henry Denham proposed the horizontally flipped question mark in the 1580s “⸮”, called the Percontation point
  • French poet Alcanter de Brahm proposed the irony mark, which was followed by other variations:

Reverse Italics

  • Also called Sartalics
  • Ironic statements should be printed in italics that lean the other way from conventional italics


Scare quotes

  • Using regular quotation marks to depict irony
  • Usually made much clearer when read out, because it is accompanied by a sarcastic or mocking tone, or “air quotes”

Closing XML tags

  • some internet users began using /sarcasm (later shortened to /sarc and /s) to clearly indicate sarcasmA Large Self-Annotated Corpus for Sarcasm visit (especially in the age of text-to-voice readers)
    • itself a simplification of the form of a humorous XML closing tag marking the end of a “sarcasm” block, and therefore placed at the end of a sarcastic passage.
  • These have evolved into tone indicators to explicitly state the intonation or intent of the message where it might be ambiguous.


Using the ~ tilde or ~~mixing~~ them up