Writing for Business

Aug 20 2012   1:56PM GMT

The difference between irony and sarcasm

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?

Dear Mr. Gates:

I’d like to offer my congratulations on the Vista operating system, which has delighted both end users and tech support staff throughout my company and, dare I say, the world.

Yes, as you may recognize, I’m being _______.  I’m writing to say that I’m breaking up with you.


New Linux lover

a. ironic
b. sarcastic

Answer: b.


An ironic statement is intended to convey the opposite meaning to the actual words. Sarcasm is a subset of irony. a variation that adds an edge that’s intended to make it sting. (Ironic isn’t incorrect, but sarcastic is more precise.)

In this case, the writer offers effusive-sounding praise of the Vista OS, which was pretty-well globally acknowledged as crapware — something to be avoided if possible and endured if necessary. Thank the gods that’s over with!

The Sarcasm Society explains further. Contact them with your questions — they’d love to hear from you.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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  • Ben Rubenstein
    You may want to send this post to Alanis Morissette (though actually her problem is not confusing sarcasm and irony - more like weird coincidences). 
    11,255 pointsBadges:

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