No Laughing Matter

Published 4 years, 11 months ago

From the wise and insightful Amber Fisher, who credits The Rocket Science Group’s Voice and Tone as an inspiration:

One of the things I teach tech writers: it’s okay to have fun with your audience most of the time. But never joke with frustrated people. If you’re delivering bad news, an alert, or helping a new user troubleshoot a problem, be straightforward and transparent.

As I’m sure Amber would be the first to say, said rule is not just for tech writers.  In any online interaction, synchronous or asynchronous, with someone you don’t know really, really well, that rule applies.  Always.  And the defense “Hey, man, where’s your sense of humor?” is usually the reddest of flags that you have already screwed this up, and should consider apologizing.

(I’m especially looking at you, Twitterers.)


  1. Funny you out Twitter here.

    I hate their error message “Oops, we did something wrong…” While not overly humorous, it’s far too deprecating and overly apologetic. “Oops something went wrong” would be fine, but don’t blame yourself like some bumbling, socially awkward teenager.

    However, I love the fail whale. Perhaps visual humour can work in this situation to add some light to the situation — but text should always be plain and straightforward. Google is another example: http://www.google.com/404

    The broken robot is cute, but the text is succinct and straight to the point.

  2. James: Funnier still is that I didn’t mean Twitter itself, I meant the people on Twitter, where jokey replies to frustrated tweets seem to be some kind of an official sport. I edited the last word to hopefully make that a bit more clear.

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