Humor is a risk in professional writing, and one rarely worth taking. Much humor— wordplay in particular— is based on ambiguity, your bane as an author. Beyond that, someone looking for information, as most of your readers will be, will not be looking for a laugh to go with it. While a funny story may serve as an approachable introduction to your paper, amusing your audience during the argument is more likely to distract them than it is to further your argument. Consider this example:

Sarcasm, for instance, translates real well to the printed word.

This sentence illustrates the limitations of inflection on the printed page. Taken literally, it claims that sarcasm can be readily conveyed without the social cues accompanying a spoken sentence. However, the sentence really means to say the opposite, as indicated by the (sarcastic) emphasis on the word real. The sentence may seem clever, as it achieves the very translation it claims is impossible. But such cleverness is out of place in an academic paper.

Awareness of Audience

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