I'm reading a paper at the moment and very bored and then I thought if I write a paper, I would like the writing style to be not so boring or having some kind of humor. Is that allowed in academic writing?

"Why so serious?" - Joker.


1 Answer 1


There is nothing wrong with humour in scientific writing but it is still advised against. The reason for this is a question of communication.

Consider that the purpose is to convey an idea as succinctly and precisely as you can and you want the recipient to understand everything that you write (my experience says this will never happen, anyway). If you introduce jokes, you run several risks: (1) the reader does not understand the joke, (2) the reader misunderstands the joke and (3) the reader is offended by the joke. These are not outcomes you wish to see and realizing that not everyone's taste is like your own it is easy top realize that the outcome is sure to be one of the three above in some cases. Jokes are different in different cultures and countries so what works in one place may not work in another.

So, as I see it the choice is how much you are willing to gamble. Reviewers and editors may of course weed out things that go too far so what you write is not necessarily what comes into print in the end but it still is mostly up to you.

  • 1
    This is interesting. I didn't know before that submitting a paper could end up with editors removing some parts or so!
    – Jack Twain
    Jan 9, 2014 at 16:34
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    That is not what I meant so sorry if that came across wrong. What I meant was that jokes may not reach publication since they may be weeded out during the publication process so even if you send them in they may not be there in the end for all to see. It is only a minor point. Jan 9, 2014 at 16:40
  • I agree with what you've written. I've come across a piece and the writer chose to use a joke at the end and I doubted their credibility.
    – alexyorke
    Nov 22, 2014 at 23:34
  • We had to write an extended abstract. To emphasise the point despite the tightness of space, my grad student put in a "crisp expression" which was neither rude nor a joke, but relatively expressive. One of the reviewers took real offence at it, almost as if we had violated some "religious tenet". We even had difficulties isolating what precisely had caused the offence. There is only so much you can do to avoid offending people. If humour helps to improve clarity of the message, go for it; avoid obvious offence, but ultimately, some people will be offended by trifles. Jan 21, 2016 at 18:43

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