Writing With Irony

Today I taught a lesson in my Advanced Placement class about using irony in writing, and so I thought I would "teach" it on the blog today. There are, as most people understand, three types of irony:

  1. Dramatic - A type of irony where the audience or reader knows something about the characters that the characters do not.
  2. Situational - A situation that happens differently than expected, often with humorous results.
  3. Verbal - A statement made by a character that is different from what is expected, often with humorous results.

There are also three main ironic tones, as illustrated by these headlines from The Onion:

  1. Playful - "Simple Task of Going to Post Office Feels Like Weight of 10,000 Boulders"
  2. Satiric - "KFC No Longer Permitted to Use Word 'Eat' in Advertisements"
  3. Sarcastic - "Teenage Rebels Seize Control of Food Court's Corner Table"

There are at least five ways to create an ironic tone in your text:

  • Use Hyperbole - A use of an exaggeration can have an ironic effect, especially if the exaggeration is absolutely impossible.
  • Use Understatement - the opposite of hyperbole, this ironic device can be used to create an ironic tone.  The best example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jLDZjMF3tk

  • Use Juxtaposition - This is where you place two ideas or words side by side to emphasize their incongruity.  Oscar Wilde was famous for juxtaposing important philosophical ideas with trivial ones.  All one needs to do is to check out The Importance of Being Ernest.
    • Algernon asks Lane "And, speaking of the science of Life, have you got the cucumber sandwiches cut for Lady Bracknell?"
  • Use Wordplay or Puns - An important way to weave a humorous text is to use puns or wordplay in dialogue especially.  Don't go overboard with it, however, but if you can sprinkle a few puns in here and there, the result will be artfully ironic.  Pun Of The Day has the best puns if you need to find one using a specific word.
  • Use a Non Sequitur - Some of the best irony comes from discussing something or asking a pointed question and then following it up with some type of non-sensical answer.   It is where a person lists a group of non-related facts for humorous and ironic effect

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Hfox-QfA0w