Sarcasm with the written word is a skill many of us do not possess. The problem is, using sarcasm in your business email can be incorrectly perceived as being rude, terse, or worse.
If you are not careful, that sarcasm can be amplified more than you expect. Based on the situation and the emotions involved, the recipient may read into your sarcastic comment meaning that you did not intend. Or much more than you intended!
You could send that very same sarcastic comment to 5 different contacts. Only to find that each imparts a different perception of your words. Their reactions will be based on their relationship with you, how well they know you, and the topic at hand.
What about emoticons in business email?
I’m not a fan of emoticons in business email, but when joking or using sarcasm, more times than not, it helps to include a winky — ;). Especially if you do not use emoticons regularly.
Doing so will make it very clear that “I am joking!” to make sure the other side knows you are kidding. Otherwise, you do risk your comment being taken at its face value.
In professional communications, sarcasm (and emoticons) should be avoided. After decades of emailing, I’ve yet to see a situation where sarcasm actually enhanced or contributed to a conversation. On the contrary, more times than not, it exposed a level of unprofessionalism that didn’t reflect well on the sarcastic person.
Instead, it either exasperated the situation, reflected a lack of seriousness, or “rubbed salt in the wound.” None of which is good for business communications or how those involved will perceive you.
Wait and Reconsider
If you are being sarcastic in an email, read it aloud before clicking send. Does it sound the way you want? Better yet, if you are attempting to be funny, think hard and long if the other side will appreciate your sense of humor.
Trust me; you’ll be glad you did.