Posted by: Jack Henry | March 8, 2018

Editor’s Corner: How to Express Laughter in Writing

Obviously, knowing how to express laughter in writing is not relevant to the technical or business writing we do every day, but I read an interesting article on the spelling and nuances of different exclamations of laughter, and wanted to share the mirth with you.

We use different words (syllables, really) to imply different kinds of laughter, from amusement to obnoxious delight. I hadn’t really thought much about laughter in its written form, so this article gave me something to ponder, and it put a smile on my face. I hope you enjoy it too.

The following list comes from a Daily Writing Tips article, but I’ve shortened the descriptions.

  • Ha is the basic expression of laughter. It can also express derision, especially when followed by an exclamation point.
  • Ha-ha (also written as ha ha and haha,but the hyphenation is preferred) implies greater amusement. Too much reduplication (ha-ha-ha and so forth) can imply derangement, however.
  • Heh (or heh-heh) suggests pointedly mild amusement or a suggestion of mischievous or smirking, sniggering, or lascivious amusement (context is helpful).
  • He-he-he implies mischief.
  • Tee-hee-hee also implies mischief, though the implication is that the laughter is high pitched, and the humor is juvenile.
  • Bwah-hah-hah (also written as mwah-hah-hah) is imitative of a comic book villain’s triumphant eruption of malicious laughter when overcoming the hero and is generally used facetiously to imply that one’s evil machinations have borne fruit.
  • Ho-ho-ho expresses Christmas cheer.
  • Hoo-hoo implies obnoxious delight, for example, being found to be right about something or having caught someone in a lie or transgression.
  • Yuk-yuk-yuk suggests impish delight.
  • Yuks suggests sarcasm or, at best, a comment on how something is not really that amusing.
  • LOL, as you know, is internet-speak for “laugh out loud.” It is sometimes uttered in conjunction with derisive eye-rolling, but it is rarely used as an expression in dialog.

“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.” —Mark Twain

“Laughter is an instant vacation.” —Milton Berle

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

Symitar Documentation Services

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