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January 03, 2012


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Randy Averill

As one who enjoys humor in practically all situations, I have to check my writing to ensure that I do not overdo the humor. I try to save my witticisms (which always entertain me, by the way) for circumstances in which they enhance the message. Those situations arise occasionally and I try to capitalize on them.

I don't think sarcasm is ever good in a business message because it's hard to pull people together (or persuade them, or whatever the purpose of your writing) with a message that can be perceived as hurtful to some. This is unfortunate because sarcasm is my native tongue.

Also, as has been discussed in this forum previously, one's messages will live on long after the context is forgotten. What's witty today might look pathetic or harmful in a couple months.

Summary: if your writing makes you chuckle, be very, very careful.

Cathy Miller

Humor is like fashion, don't overdo it or you will have people smiling for the wrong reason. :-)

Business Writing Blog

Hi, Randy. Thanks for your always thoughtful remarks. I love "sarcasm is my native tongue."

I notice that while your writing is always engaging in these comments, you have restrained your humor. Excellent self-control!


Business Writing Blog

Cathy, well said! Thanks for dropping by.


Val S.

I love a little humor, and it always helps break the ice or reduce tension - as long as it's not offensive or overused. However, meeting minutes are usually considered an official record, and I think that is the wrong place to add subjective comments.

As for sarcasm, unfortunately for Randy and me, it must be used judiciously until you're familiar with someone's attitudes, especially in the workplace.

Suze Writes

Another area in which you need to be careful with humor in business communication is when your audience consists of different nationalities and cultures. What's hilarious to one group can be boring or even offensive to another. You might like to take a look at one of my articles on using humor in your writing, here - http://howtowritebetter.net/using-humour-in-your-writing/


Business Writing Blog

Hi, Val. Thanks for the good point about meeting notes. I have seen a drop of humor work well in informal notes. But in official minutes, humor is out of line, as you mention.

Researchers have found that readers can't tell the difference between sarcasm and serious writing, at least statistically speaking, even when the correspondents know one another. Odd, isn't it?


Business Writing Blog

Suze, thanks for the link to your article. I like the points you made in it about when humor works and doesn't work, especially concerning who or what is the butt of the joke.

Thanks for taking the time to comment.


articles on writing

I think a little humor will bring a little lightness and life to the conversation.. However, as mentioned by Val S., reports and minutes of meeting should be straightforward and taken seriously because this are being recorded and will serve a future reference.

Business Writing at Word Nerds

Humor in business writing seems inappropriate, especially in documents to readers outside the organisation.

For example, if you were submitting a report or proposal to a client, humor would not be appropriate. But if you were giving a presentation about the report, a little humor might be work if it is relevant and inoffensive.

The best rule for using humor in business writing is: If in doubt, leave it out.

Business Writing Blog

That's a good rule to write by. Thanks for commenting.


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