Your Copy Sucks: Ironically True

Diving board in rural landscape (digital composite)Let’s cut to the chase: you don’t understand irony. You think you do, because you’re A) a hipster or B) a cynic. Don’t beat yourself up; it’s a common mistake. So let’s break down what’s ironic, what’s unfortunate, and what’s just plain hilarious.

Irony sounds really complicated when you try to research it on Wikipedia. There are lots of different kinds: verbal irony (when you say something that’s the opposite of what you really mean) and dramatic irony (when one person is not aware of something that everyone else is).

Whatever. Forget all that. The problem is that you (yes, you) often say something is ironic when it is actually just unfortunate. It is NOT ironic when you get stuck in the rain without an umbrella. That’s just poor planning on your part. I would be ironic, however, if you got stuck in the rain without an umbrella and you happened to be the president of an umbrella manufacturer and you were locked out of your well-stocked umbrella warehouse. Do you see? Irony does not lie in something being merely unfortunate, inconvenient, or funny. Irony is a special kind of funny (or sad) where something is contrary to what is normal or expected.

When do you call something ironic in your press releases and pitches? My guess is, not often. Here’s my rule, which you should feel free to adopt as your own: If you can substitute “funnily enough” for “ironically,” you should. It’s not ironic that your client is holding an event in the city while your pitchee will be there; that’s just facts. So just stick to ’em.

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