Satire is a popular genre that most readers are familiar with, but it can be difficult to use effectively.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide to using satire in your writing, complete with an explanation of the concept and our top tips for making satire work for you.
What is Satire?
Satire is the concept of humorously criticizing an aspect of everyday life in order to promote change or discussion.
It is a literary genre and device originating in ancient Rome. Today, satire is widely used in literature, art, and pop culture as a form of social commentary. Typically, the best satire uses sarcasm, irony, exaggeration, and humor to make its point.
Jonathan Swift’s novel Gulliver’s Travels, for example, is a satirical take on travel writing. Satirical websites such as The Onion and Reductress mimic different styles of online journalism.
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Your writing style will likely depend on the topic of your work. If you were writing a piece of satire about modern consumerism, for example, it may make sense to present as an advertisement:
Sick of coins jangling in your pockets? Hate it when your bank statement is in the triple digits? Then try our new product, Money-Be-Gone™! Guaranteed to clear out your bank account with just one easy payment of $1,000,000.
Before you decide to parody a certain style, though, make sure you are familiar with that style’s conventions and tone. This will help make your satire convincing and allow your readers to identify the type of writing that you are parodying.
3. Make Use of Irony
Satire relies heavily on a literary device known as irony.
● Making note of any contrasts in your subject (for example, the differences between a person’s words and actions.)
● Highlighting a subject’s negative qualities by presenting them as something positive:
And did you know, last year she donated 0.02% of her entire monthly income to a charity that happens to be run by her husband! The woman’s a saint.
● Subverting your reader’s expectations of what they are familiar with.
4. Push Things to the Extreme
Part of what makes satire effective is the use of hyperbole, or the act of exaggerating something for dramatic effect.
By starting out with a real-world thought, argument, or action and then taking it to a ridiculous extreme, you can draw attention to its flaws.
To use hyperbole in your writing, start by listing the defining qualities of your subject, its biggest flaws, or the things that stand out most to you.
Then, think about how you can exaggerate those qualities in a way that illustrates the point you are trying to make.
Make sure to choose only one or two things to exaggerate or highlight; too many, and your satire will lose focus.
5. Don’t Forget the Humor
It might sound obvious, but satire isn’t satire without humor.
When writing on a subject you’re passionate about, it’s easy to let feelings like anger take over.
But while the point of satire is to criticize a subject in order to promote change, it should do so by making that subject humorous. Failing to do so can result in your writing becoming overly negative, cruel, or difficult to read.
Make sure you strike the correct balance between critique and humor.
If you’re not sure you’ve achieved the right tone, ask a friend, coworker, or professional editor to review your work for you.
Here at Proofed, our proofreading team can make sure your satire reads as it should. Submit a trial document and get your first 500 words proofread for free.