Simply put, marking text to indicate sarcasm.
Even in speech, sarcasm doesn't always carry over well. Some people just can't recognize it. Some people just can't express it. In text, it's worse. While it's bad to act out an emotion by merely stating that you feel that way, it is sometimes necessary to indicate emotions such as sarcasm.
Sarcasm mode is Older Than Radio: the irony mark, ⸮, was proposed in the 19th century. Since then, it has also shown up in comics, both daily strips and comic books, generally in the form of a variant speech bubble outline (jagged, dripping, or icicled) or a different typeface than normally used.
Sarcasm mode shows up in many different forms on the Internet. Here is one way to mark it up:
- sarcasm mode on You mean you can't hear voice inflections in text? sarcasm mode off
This is also seen in Faux Computer Code: <sarcasm> </sarcasm> form. Usually with this kind of sarcasm tag, only the closing tag is used. It's not as much fun, and might even be insulting, to announce in advance that you're being sarcastic, and oh, how the world weeps when you're insulted, right? </sarcasm> More recently this is further shortened to just appending /s at the end of the text.
Some people display sarcasm by emphasizing certain words as one would in speech, usually by using italic font. Others however, just use words that are not common in natural speech, such as "Gosh, really?", "My goodness, I never would have guessed that", and "Gee willikers, that's so insightful." Other people have even proposed a sarcastic font.
Roger Ebert has a rather comprehensive essay on this very subject, titled "This is the Dawning of the Age of Credulity," written after people completely failed to appreciate the sarcasm behind an 'interview' he gave regarding Creationism. This, however, was due to Poe's Law.
People have a tendency to pothole to this page every single time they're being sarcastic. Our advice is that, before you do this, you ask yourself if the sarcasm is visible without the pothole. If it is, ask yourself if there's any reason for you to pothole here. After all, you don't pothole to Sincerity Mode every time you mean what you say.