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“Is Google Better at Understanding Sarcasm in 2021?” Google’s John Mueller Replies

You’d better not joke with Google. Nah…just kidding, but when using sarcasm, you do want to use good judgment.

During the September 24th, 2021 English SEO Q&A webmaster session, at around the 36:40 mark, John Mueller read a question: “Is Google Better at Understanding Sarcasm in 2021?”

The person who asked the question implied that the sarcasm would be used in a medical context. 

Maybe Not When It’s Within a Critical, Life-or-Death Context

John’s response was: “I would say there’s definitely a risk that we misunderstand things like that or that we don’t understand when there is sarcasm on a page. 

“And especially if it’s something where it’s really critical for you to get the right message across to Google and to all users, then I would make sure that it’s as clear as possible, so maybe in cases where you’re talking about medical information, maybe try to avoid sarcasm.”

That said, in other contexts, the use of sarcasm can be more easily tolerated, with less chance of misunderstanding.

John continued: “[On the other hand,] if you’re writing about…an entertainment topic or something like that, it’s like that’s probably less of an issue, but especially if it’s really critical information, then really make sure that it’s as easy as possible to understand.”

I Think It Comes Down to Wording

I think that, in most topics and contexts, you can definitely have a light tone. 

I think you can be humorous. That’s for sure.

With sarcasm, I’d say that you don’t want to word your writing in a way where you negate a statement that’s accepted as positive. That is, you don’t want to say, “Doctors never write prescriptions,” which would be a negation of something that’s positively true.

Of course, if you write that, Googlebot may read those words and, having no understanding of sarcasm, it might take those words at face value.

That’s why, in critical situations such as a medical document (or web page), you should try to state things as-is.

Now…what if, say…you’re writing an account of where someone told a lie? 

Then go ahead and do so. For sure, if you have to give a truthful account of something that happened (like in a police report), then do so. 

With that, I hope you now have a better idea of how to use sarcasm. Use your best judgment.

Source: Google Search Central YouTube Channel