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This question is the exact opposite of How do I indicate sarcasm/irony online?. Sometimes some of our words that are meant to be understood literally look like sarcastic. When we are indicating that we are sarcastic, we can use /s or /sarcasm. However, when we are indicating that we are honest, we can't simply omit it. (It may be still interpreted as sarcastic). In TVTropes, we can link our text to Sincerity Mode page.

But consider the following situation: Toei is an anime studio that's infamous for creating anime with filler. Someone told me that Radiant (an anime) should have been made by them because they know how to make an anime popular.

I replied that "I agree. Especially if your anime were going to be filler-ridden anyway". I actually agree that Toei should have made it because they know how to make an anime with filler bearable or even good, not sarcasm that means Toei is a bad choice because Toei only made anime full of fillers. But my message was interpreted as the latter.

How can I indicate a lack of sarcasm online, to avoid messages being interpreted as sarcasm when they are not?

  • I don't understand your question because usually, sarcasm is actually based on truth so being sarcastic is telling the hard truth. Then you should add a more universally understandable example, because I have no idea what you are referring to. – Sqaq Jul 22 at 9:12
  • Hey @Akangka! I've given your question two edits now: One to clarify your example as being about an anime studio and an anime, and one to rephrase it in such a way that it sounds like it's an actual problem you encountered (your reply being misinterpreted as sarcasm). I hope that narrows down the question, makes the example understandable and the question good, but if I completly missed the mark on those edits, feel free to roll them back! – Tinkeringbell Jul 22 at 9:40
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I communicate a lot online, especially in chatrooms - often on Stack Exchange chat itself, or Discord, or similar platforms, and have been using these platforms to communicate for years. I'm often sarcastic - I like incorporating sarcasm into my communication, and it doesn't help that I like to at times provide "comic relief" of sorts. I'm used to people assuming that what I'm saying is sarcasm, because a lot of the time, it is.

A good way that I've found to differentiate between when you're being sarcastic and when not is to incorporate a specific writing style for being sarcastic, and a different one for being serious. This happened rather naturally for me, simply as a result of being misunderstood a bit too often - it sort of developed as a defense mechanism.

If I'm being sarcastic, I'll often trail off sentences with an ellipsis at the end, and in general adopt a dry, familiar tone. Emphasis on words like "much better" also helps with replicating normal tones for speaking sarcastically. Throwing in emojis like ";)" are also commonplace. Speaking in absolutes also often gives a sarcastic tone.

Compare:

Sure... ;)

Yeah, it would've been much better if they'd have killed her off at the end...

vs

Sure.

Seriously, it would've been better if they had killed her off at the end - it would've resolved the storyline with this guy, and given some resolution to the character.

When I'm not being sarcastic, my tone gets less dry. I sound more like I mean what I'm saying. Drop the emojis. Drop the ellipsis at the end. Sound more "serious". Flesh out what you're saying. For extra benefit, throw on a "seriously" at the beginning, especially if you're switching from being joking / sarcastic to being serious, or use another similar method ("on a more serious note", "to be serious for a sec", etc).


What you wrote - "I agree. Especially if your anime were going to be filler-ridden anyway" - has several things in it that make it sound like you're being sarcastic.

First off, you wrote "I agree". That immediately sounds sarcastic. (I'm not even sure why, but it does. It for some reason immediately gives me the impress that you're not being serious.) If I were you, I'd've thrown on a "seriously" at the beginning.

Second, you're degrading the thing you're talking about, in a way. "filler-ridden" gives the impression that you're being sarcastic because you're putting it down without explaining what you mean, or giving your reasoning.

If I were in your position, I would have gone for something more like this.

Seriously, I agree. It already has lots of filler in it, which is Toei's specialty, so it would actually be a good idea.

While there's still the possibility of this being misinterpreted as being sarcastic, from my experience this will be much less likely now that you're explaining your reasoning, and leading with something ("seriously") that should explicitly tell them that you're not being sarcastic.

While there's no sureproof way to make sure that you're never taken sarcastically when you're not, in my experience, the best way is to adopt a certain way that you use to communicate in each instance, and avoid using communication methods that are usually seen as sarcastic when you're being serious. This will work best with people who you communicate with often and have learned your style of communication, but I've had success in using my two methods of communication even with people who I am not in regular contact with.


As an aside, cultural and language barriers often play an often underestimated role when it comes to sarcasm and communication on the internet. People who don't speak English as a first language often have a hard time picking up on the subtleties that come into play in English, and people who do speak English as a first language sometimes read stuff into other people's messages that the person who wrote the message didn't mean at all. Other cultural considerations, such as not generally using sarcasm at all, can also have an impact on understanding. It's something to keep in mind. Always be ready to explain yourself, and don't be too quick to jump to conclusions, especially if the other person isn't a native speaker.

9

I replied that "I agree. Especially if your anime were going to be filler-ridden anyway". I actually agree that Toei should have made it because they know how to make an anime with filler bearable or even good, not sarcasm that means Toei is a bad choice because Toei only made anime full of fillers. But my message was interpreted as the latter.

I don't think there's a specific way to indicate a lack of sarcasm online, that's similar to how you can indicate sarcasm using /s, /sarcasm or italics.

You can, however, change the tone of your message to sound less sarcastic. Your reply sounds the way I'd use to indicate sarcasm in real-life sentences, with words like 'especially', 'filler-ridden' and 'anyway'. Wikihow lists a few characteristics of sarcasm, and your sentence matches some of them:

  • Overly positive or negative language: 'filler-ridden' sounds much more negative than 'with filler' for example.
  • It sounds critical: The combination of 'especially' and 'anyway' in one sentence sounds like you're critical, that you're aware of the studio's infamy for using filler.

So, get rid of that part of your phrasing. Rephrase your sentence, avoid the overly positive, the overly negative, the critical part. Let people know you know the studio is infamous for creating anime with filler, but that you think they do a better job at making those than a random other studio, so moving the production would at least make that part of the anime better. Tell them exactly like you told us in your explanation of your reply.

Yes, that's a lot more words and explanation, but it also leaves a lot less up to people's imagination and will help with preventing misunderstandings.

3

I just add

(not sarcastic)

or

/notsarcastic

at the end. It seems to work fine.

A commenter suggested:

I have personally used this technique in the past, and (not sarcastic) does work fairly well. If necessary you can flesh it out to (I'm not being sarcastic). (I'm not being sarcastic here.)

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    How do you indicate that you aren't using "(not sarcastic)" or "/notsarcastic" sarcastically? – sphennings Jul 23 at 16:59
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    Hey WendyG! Can you take a look at the accepted answer here, and are you willing to include some of the details mentioned there in your own answer? Things like where you use this, online chatrooms, mail, Facebook, Twitter, or whether you use specific ways to indicate sarcasm as well, so people who are used to you do know you're not using this sarcastically as sphennings asks? – Tinkeringbell Jul 25 at 8:16

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