On the Internet, you don't have important visual and auditory cues from a person like tone of voice or facial expressions. Body language, therefore, is non-existent - yet this can be very important in conversations. The people in the conversation may also not know each other very well; the relationships here are not akin to those in real life. They're casual and informal, and they may be completely global.

I've found that it's not always clear when someone is being sarcastic/ironic or not, and on Stack Exchange (in chat), this has caused some serious issues. It's sometimes hard to tell whether or not someone's joking. Misunderstanding this can have important consequences.

How can I indicate sarcasm or irony in a chat room without saying outright "I'm being sarcastic"?

  • Related question: interpersonal.stackexchange.com/q/16/102. I should note that this question is about using sarcasm, and also in a context where body language is not an option and the people interacting may be strangers.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 22:20

3 Answers 3


Be explicit. By Poe's law, if you aren't explicit, it won't work.

Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is utterly impossible to parody [any view] in such a way that someone won't mistake for the genuine article.

  • If you're really worried about it being unclear, just stick an </s> at the end of whatever you said. Or say outright "(just kidding)" or similar. There's an entire Wikipedia article on irony punctuation:

    It is common in online conversation among some Internet users to use an XML closing tag: </sarcasm>. The tag is often written only after the sarcasm so as to momentarily trick the reader before admitting the joke. Over time, it has evolved to lose the angle brackets (/sarcasm) and has subsequently been shortened to /sarc or /s.

    In my experience (mostly on Stack Exchange), the most commonly seen nowadays is </s>. See e.g. Urban Dictionary and Internet Slang.

  • If you're less worried but still want to add some sort of indicator, try :-P or ;-). (Noses are optional.)


A convention for indicating sarcasm online tends is to end your sarcastic comment with /s.

For example:

Of course everybody in the world loves having their teeth pulled out. /s


To add to that: Originally, in the good old forum days, it'd be spelled out "</thread>", like a HTML end tag. Over time it dropped the angle brackets.

The same with "</sarcasm>", which over time became "/sarcasm" and (as /u/LOOK_AT_MY_ALL_CAPS points out) eventually becoming just "/s".


I tend to use sarcasm a lot. Also, I text a lot. Merging the two can be... difficult to navigate. Fortunately, there exists a well-established (though not that well-known) group of characters for that.

Among my friends we've always used (!) and (?).

From Wikipedia:

Rhetorical questions in some informal situations can use a bracketed question mark, e.g., "Oh, really[?]". The equivalent for an ironic or sarcastic statement would be a bracketed exclamation mark, e.g., "Oh, really[!]". Subtitles, such as in Teletext, sometimes use an exclamation mark within brackets or parentheses to mark sarcasm.

Not everyone knows it, of course, but I've observed that those who see the character for the first time quickly get the meaning and happily adopt it. YMMV.

  • Thanks, downvoter(s), for leaving me wondering what is wrong with my answer (!) Who needs feedback (?) (Actually, in all seriousness, I would appreciate it, if I can improve this answer somehow)
    – xDaizu
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 13:07
  • I don't see it either... Maybe Tim lost his keys again? Also: eeeewl, sources in the answer [!]
    – Tinkeringbell
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 13:14

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