Branching from the lmgtfy-question, I'm curious if sarcastic responses in general should be tolerated on Stackoverflow. This is the nasty cousin of the LMGTFY responses. I'm afraid these types of responses (which aren't few or far between) will forum-ify the Q&A-style flow of Stackoverflow. To clarify, I'm referring to items that are more sarcasm than substance.

Should we report these?

  • I'm not seeing any sarcasm in that link. – TheTXI Jul 14 '09 at 18:02
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    I'm somewhat of the opinion that the title of this question should be "Should Sarcasm be Forbidden"? Right now, it seems as if a vote for it is partially a vote for sarcasm being acceptable, which does not seem to be the intention. – chaos Jul 14 '09 at 18:04
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    I thought you were being sarcastic in your title. Because it never occurred to me that sarcasm could ever be unacceptable. – jjnguy Jul 14 '09 at 18:10
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    What if the answer is correct and just throws in some sarcasm for good measure? stackoverflow.com/questions/1105258 – tj111 Jul 14 '09 at 19:53
  • @tj111 - Hopefully somebody would clean it up so that it doesn't appear to be even the least bit offensive. – Sampson Jul 14 '09 at 19:55
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    @Jonathan Sampson: This attitude toward offensiveness offends me. – chaos Jul 14 '09 at 20:08
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    If the response gets the job done and answers the question then who cares?? – Miyagi Coder Jul 14 '09 at 21:26
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    The person being insulted cares; SO shouldn't be one of those sites people go to get treated like crap. There's enough of those sites all over the internet. – Lance Roberts Jul 15 '09 at 0:03
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    Depending on the style of sarcasm, it makes you pay more attention to the problem and the situation. – DragonBorn Jul 23 '09 at 8:42

11 Answers 11


Personally, I'd rather just vote down a response that seems to be a bit unhelpful. A little sarcasm probably isn't that bad, it shows some personality. But not at the expense of being completely unhelpful to the OP's question.

So I'd say vote it down, and flag it it seems a bit beyond what you are comfortable with.

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    I agree with down-voting, but that doesn't work on comments. – Sampson Jul 14 '09 at 17:53
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    Leave comments alone. – jjnguy Jul 14 '09 at 18:02
  • Then just flag it. – toast Jul 14 '09 at 18:03
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    For comments that are completely unhelpful, I'd flag them. – RSolberg Jul 14 '09 at 18:08
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    Its quite possible to be sarcastic and factually accurate. Remember that not all users of the site have English as their first language, so I try to make sure that even if the sarcasm is missed the answer is still not misleading. – Justin Jan 21 '11 at 7:13

Oh yeah. Sarcasm is totally acceptable.

Also good: insulting the OP's mother.

  • Oh, you just had to get that one in before me, didn't you. – chaos Jul 14 '09 at 18:01
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    I think neither of those are acceptable. You have shamed yourself and your entire ancestry. – devinb Jul 14 '09 at 18:13
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    And your mama's so dumb, when she put so many pancakes on the plate that they fell over, she went on stackoverflow to ask about it. YEAH NOW WHAT. – chaos Jul 14 '09 at 18:17
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    @chaos It's "gravitation" or something. Too lazy to find the link now. – Daniel Daranas Feb 11 '10 at 23:25
  • Also good: posting spam. Reward: +-100 rep!! – EKons Sep 8 '16 at 17:13

Oh, yeah, right, sarcasm should totally not be allowed.

We are not all happy little prim-and-packaged-Wal-Mart-family-friendly-answer writing machines. If I feel like being sarcastic, I believe that that should be accepted. Now, if you don't like it, you can downvote me for it and that's cool. I'd rather you voted based on whether the answer is actually helpful, not solely on its tone, but that's just my personal preference; you can vote based on whatever criteria you like. And that's part of the beauty of it.

Leave me the same psychological space to maneuver, and don't make it a thought police situation where voices that don't speak just how you like have to be silenced.

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    Can you believe I collected a downvote on this one? Man. There really is no cause so minor that people won't try to be fascists about it, is there. – chaos Jul 14 '09 at 18:13
  • But what if this weren't a rhetorical question? – chaos Jul 14 '09 at 19:10
  • What would Meta Stack Overflow be like with no hypothetical questions? – David Thornley Jul 14 '09 at 20:17
  • +1 for the ban hammer. – EKons Sep 8 '16 at 17:15

Sarcasm, unfortunately, is something that does not translate well, and may be easily misunderstood in text. While sarcasm is a form of communication, it's simply not a very good one because it relies on common assumptions and is underpinned by emotions. You can't easy convey emotions in text, and you can't assume anything about a random reader's background when they reach the site from Google.

Few things can be said sarcastically that can't also be said in a clear way and thus reach more people.

On a technical website sarcasm should be used sparingly, if ever, and only when the intent and joke is blatantly obvious to people of all backgrounds. Sarcasm should not be used to convey important technical information - even the most blatant sarcasm is often opaque to a speaker new to English.

If sarcasm appears on a question or answer, call it out in the comments, edit it (sarcasm tags work well), etc, if only for the benefit of those poor sarcastically impaired folk.

Also consider donating your excess rep to the sarcasm therapy foundation, where thousands of people are helped each day to understand, and more importantly integrate, sarcasm into their daily use of English. Just 3 rep a day can help boys like little Bartholomeus here come to terms with the subtleties of English as she is spoke:

Everyone knows learning must be serious and difficult and you must remain seated at all times. No fun allowed.


I think if we're going to allow humor (which I hope it's already established that we are) a little bit of sarcasm is okay too. I think it's more important that questions get answered than how, in general. I think it's important to remember, as both a writer and a reader, that sarcasm is sometimes difficult to detect in writing. As a reader, you may be registering a false positive on your snark-o-meter.

As a moderator, I do have to draw a line somewhere, and I draw it at people directly insulting or otherwise attacking other users, personally. Short of this, as long as a question gets answered, I think we can all take a little bit of good-natured sarcasm.

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    @Telemachus: See there, I can't tell if you're being sarcastic about not being able to tell if I'm being tongue-in-cheek. :) – Bill the Lizard Jul 14 '09 at 18:14

Quoting Jeff: "Good lord, people! Use your common sense!".

If somebody is heavily sarcastic without adding any content, downvote and consider flagging offensive.

If somebody is funnily sarcastic while adding good content, even an upvote may be warranted.

Also the target of the sarcastic comment should be considered. If it's aimed at, say, the Tooth Fairy, one shouldn't probably mark it offensive, even if it may win a downvote for lack of usefulness.

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    "If somebody is funnily sarcastic while adding good content, even an upvote may be warranted." - How do you think I made all my rep? – TheTXI Jul 14 '09 at 18:05
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    I've always thought you did it via hacking into SO's database – Vinko Vrsalovic Jul 14 '09 at 18:08
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    And where are MY upvotes? – Vinko Vrsalovic Jul 14 '09 at 18:09
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    I assumed he was being sarcastic when he mentioned "common sense" – devinb Jul 14 '09 at 18:13

<sarcasm>There should be no sarcasm.</sarcasm>


This is getting dangerously close to saying that questions and answers shouldn't contain any 'personality'.

Arrgh, I hate interacting with other humans.
See, sarcasm ;b

And yes, I know that there is a difference between 'humour/sarcasm/personality' and 'offensiveness'.
And yes, I know SO isn't a 'social' site.
That's what the moderators are for.

As seen (for real) on one of those blind date tv shows:
Q - Why would you wear metal underwear?
A - To hold back all that personality that I've got!


I think this falls under 'offensive' as being a personal attack against someone.

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    +1, heavy sarcasm is offensive – Lance Roberts Jul 14 '09 at 17:59
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    The asker clearly IS talking about heavy sarcasm. I quote: "To clarify, I'm referring to items that are more sarcasm than substance." – Kevin Laity Jul 14 '09 at 20:00
  • Fair enough, I should have checked the edit history – Kevin Laity Jul 14 '09 at 20:17

Perhaps we could code a sarcasm detection machine and prevent the user from posting if it's detected

uhhh... A sarcasm detector - that’s a real useful invention!

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    That's a brilliant idea and completely feasible. I'm all for it. – mmyers Feb 11 '10 at 23:07
  • This is a post which needs to be downvoted because it prevents people to show off their personality using automated and/or manual technology, yet still has a positive score. – EKons Sep 8 '16 at 17:22

I think we need some way to blow off steam for those 'wall-of-shame' type questions. How about a checkbox for my answers that makes them only show up for people who also want to see hilarious answers to stupid questions? Learning from others' mistakes, so to speak. Maybe make it only available to users with a certain minimum rep?

  • I agree with that option, provided it is impossible for anyone to ever enable seeing those "contributions". This way you're able to scream your ramblings into the empty void of nothingness to keep your daily sanity at bay, while having noone else be bothered by it and everyone's happy. – Chris says Reinstate Monica Dec 6 '18 at 21:26

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