Professional Style

Irony

March 2013
Spot the Error

Ironically, Joan’s daughter’s basketball team lost its game 30-13 the same day her son’s team won its game 30-13.

People often substitute ironic for coincidental. In the “basketball” sentence above, the scores are purely coincidental, not ironic.

One definition of irony is incongruity between the expected and the actual. For example, if a race-car driver were ticketed for driving under the minimum allowed speed, it would be ironic; it is the exact opposite of what you would expect given his profession. It would be coincidental if he got a speeding ticket the same day as his brother.

There are different types of irony—dramatic, theatrical, literary—but the common thread is expectation vs. reality. For our purposes, think of irony simply as the direct opposite of expectation. Think of coincidence as random things seeming to have a connection.

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