How to Be Sarcastic

Sarcasm is a finely wrought tool that can be honed and used for good or bad purposes. If you are sarcastic at the wrong time or with the wrong person, you may end up hurting someone’s feelings, but sarcasm can also bring laughs and smiles so long as you use good-natured humor and avoid insults. It may even make it easier to deal with people who enjoy bringing others down.


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    Choose your target carefully. Avoid people who could beat you up physically or verbally or are authority figures. Being sarcastic with a teacher or a police officer could cause you trouble. If you want the respect of your teacher or another adult, use respectful language.
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    Be tactful and tasteful. Try to avoid telling jokes about issues that the person is insecure about, such as weight. It is not very tasteful, for example, to make jokes about a fat friend again and again.
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    Deliver your joke quickly. If you wait too long, it loses its value and makes you look bad. A good way to give yourself a couple seconds is to simply stare at the person with a small smile, as if you are thinking something about them. If you manage to quickly think of a joke, say it. Otherwise, just smile a bit wider, then shake your head and look away. The image of “you aren't worth the effort” is sometimes the best way to scoff. Don't wait too long, though; it looks strange.
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    Poke fun. Be very observant of what people look like and what they are wearing. While looking at someone, observe his or her clothing. What famous person does it remind you of who has no fashion sense?
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    Listen very carefully to what people say. Many people will set themselves up, so take advantage. You need not make the person feel bad; just show him the problem with the point that he is trying to make. Sarcasm comes in many forms[1]:
    • Reductio ad absurdum (most useful in this situation)
      Reveal that the other person’s comment is absurd.
      “No, you don’t NEED it, and that's final!”
      “We don’t actually NEED anything except for food, air and water, so why don’t we all go live in caves and spear large animals for food every day?”
    • Past experience (also very useful here)
      Show the person that he does not have the expertise that he says he has.
      “I can tell you about sarcasm. I’m a great writer!”
      “You must be proud that your writing has been rejected ten times!”
    • Random Example:
      "Where's My Toothpaste?
      "On The Moon! Obviously It's In The Bathroom.
    • Inversion of truth
      Say just the opposite of what is true to show that the answer to the question is obvious.
      “Do you think this dress makes me look fat?”
      “You've never looked so thin!”
    • Inversion of meaning
      Say the opposite of what you mean.
      “Oh, great!” or "That's all I need!" instead of “Oh, no!”
      “Yeah, right!” or “whatever you say” instead of “I’m not so sure.”
      “Big deal!” instead of “That seems trivial.”
    • Exaggeration
      Being comforting.
      "I don't think Bob likes me."
      "Yeah he must really hate you mustn't he?"
      Play the role suggested by the first person’s comment.
      “Shut up, will you?”
      “Oh, I'm deeply sorry, Your Highness, should I go get you your tea and crumpets now?”
    • The obvious alternative
      Suggest another reason why something happened.
      “You stole my homework to copy it!”
      “No, I didn't!”
      “Hmm... The dog must have eaten it, then!” (The obvious alternative to “You stole my homework!”)
    • Leveling
      Ask someone how to do something when you are already doing just that.
      Example: Can you show me how you use a keyboard?
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    Don't overuse your talent. If sarcasm is the only thing you do, you'll likely find less people willing to talk to you. Remember that the more people you have, the more potential targets you have. Keep a good nature about your jibes, and most people will enjoy the humor of the personal joke.
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    Make sure that your target knows that you’re not serious, but don’t say, “Only kidding!” Be more creative. Follow the WGL rule: either Wink, Grin, or Laugh. Use body language. Shoving about playfully usually works well, too, but there's always the possibility of you accidentally knocking the person into oncoming traffic, or over the face of a cliff (unless, of course, there is already an Acme trampoline at the base of the cliff).


  • Remember the three T's: Tact, timing, and target.
  • Do not insult the other person in the argument; that will only keep the argument going. Use sarcasm only to show the person that his insults are not affecting you and he is wasting your time and his.
  • Show the people who try to bring you down that they cannot ruin your day. Sarcasm may diffuse any verbal conflict. If someone tries to bring you down or use any foul language, make a bad face and say, “ aggressive!” or “Aw, did I touch a soft spot?”
  • When choosing your target, make sure that they understand the concept of sarcasm. Children often make a poor target choice as they tend to take sarcastic remarks seriously. (Seeing as most kids don't fully understand sarcasm until the age of 12.)


  • Don't say anything that might be turned against you. There may be someone even quicker and more sarcastic than you. Then, your witty interjections will no longer be taken seriously.
  • Don't do this to people who can't take a joke, people with no sense of humor, people who aren't in the mood, etc.; you may hurt their feelings or make them cry.
  • Know where to draw the line. You may hurt your friends’ feelings if you make jokes about issues that you know they are very touchy about.
  • Do not give people the impression that they cannot say or do anything around you without being ridiculed. People should still feel comfortable coming to you and talking to you.
  • Be careful with sarcasm in online communications. See How to Detect Sarcasm in Writing for suggestions for how to make your sarcasm more apparent.
  • Also, you must have the right look-

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Language Nuances