6 Types of Irony

Source: The Oatmeal
Source: The Oatmeal

Irony (n): the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.

This is a blanket definition of irony when in fact; there are many different forms of irony. Too many people use irony as a catchall term to refer to anything out of the ordinary, amusing, or dramatic. The ignorance stops here. By understanding the various forms it comes in, you will (hopefully) use irony correctly.

If one of your friends or classmates comes to you and says, “I wish my professor would call on me more, I love the feeling of absolute terror you get when everyone in the class is staring at you.” Unless they’re some kind of masochist, they obviously don’t enjoy being spontaneously called on and suffering the scrutiny of their classmates. This is known as verbal irony though it is usually referred to as sarcasm.

The most common irony is situational irony, which refers the actions of someone based on an expectation that lead directly to the outcome they wish to avoid. For example, in the movie Shrek, it was expected that “love’s true form” for Fiona would be human when in reality it was an ogre because Shrek loved her ogre form.

In the works of drama or fiction, dramatic irony is when the reader or audience is let in on a fact that is unknown to most of the characters. The most famous example is in Romeo & Juliet when the audience knows that Juliet has taken a potion to merely appear dead, while Romeo only sees her dead body and proceeds to kill himself.

Cosmic irony would only be used for dramatic effect in real life, but it basically blames the gods or fate for having a hand in our struggles. For a fictional example, in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort’s motivation throughout all the books is to kill Harry and in the end, that’s what destroys him.

The juxtaposition between a historical event and what has happened since to contradict it is historical irony. Leading up to its departure in 1912, the Titanic was declared unsinkable – and then it sunk on its maiden voyage.

Based on the Socratic teaching method, Socratic irony is feigning ignorance in order to get a certain reaction or answer out of someone. So when your professor asks you to read the material and then you come in the next day and they say “I don’t know the answer” as they sit back and ask you question after question and you end up teaching yourself – you’ve just become the victim of Socratic irony.

Check out more examples of irony at Huffington Post.

Social Media Buttons Don’t Actually Work

Social media buttons are an appealing concept when sharing your work is crucial to success. But do they actually work? According to Sam Solomon, web developer and entrepreneur: no, not really.

Anecdotal evidence shows that share buttons don’t actually garner very many shares. Scrolling to the end of an article only to find a string of logos with zeros (zero shares on twitter, zero shares on facebook, zero shares on Google+) is just going to reinforce that the article isn’t worth sharing. Even worse, the share buttons often bring up annoying pop-ups, which is a quick way to drive any user away… even if they DID like the content.

The solution is simple, but as usual, easier said than done. If you write something especially interesting to your audience, they will put in the effort to write a tweet, status, or blog post about it. Rely on the strength of your content. 

Where They Create: You Are Where You Work


The meaning and value of physical spaces becomes easier to overlook with each passing day bringing us further into the digital fold. To bring the focus back around, there is Where They Create, a project by photographer Paul Barbera. Where They Create brings the workspace back to the forefront, showing us the spaces where creative professionals and artists bring their work to life. Cluttered, clean, minimalist, eclectic – every space has a distinct personality that speaks to the process and thought-space of each individual artist.

For a quick peek into the lives of other creators, and perhaps a shot of inspiration, check out wheretheycreate.com.

Throwback Thursday – Great opening lines from the 1950s

It’s gotta POP. It’s gotta HOOK people. It’s gotta JUMP off the page.

There are about a zillion weird cliché phrases to express one simple idea: you’ve gotta start strong. An opening line sets the reader’s expectations in any genre or format, and these 1950s novels all offer opening lines worth aspiring towards: 13 Greatest Opening Lines from 1950s Novels

My personal favorites?

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” – The Voyage of The Dawn Treader

I read the Chronicles of Narnia back when I was in elementary school, and back in the days where a name was to be judged by how badly you could get bullied for it… deserving a name like Eustace Clarence Scrubb meant a lot.

And, of course, from one of my favorite novels:

“It was a pleasure to burn.” – Fahrenheit 451

It’s hard to even explain what is so perfect about this line, but if I must – it’s short, visceral, and full of promise. A perfect formula to fuel reader curiosity.

So whether you’re writing “The Next Great American Novel” or a short blog post for work, remember at least one variation of this cliché, because you only get one chance at a first impression.