According to a series of psychological studies discussed on Psychology Today, research participants are able to successfully communicate sarcasm and humor in a mere 56 percent of emails—and most of the senders had no idea their attemps were so ineffective.

How do you avoid this? The article gives some tips:

  • Read your emails aloud and listen for parts that could be confusing.
  • For important emails, walk away from the computer and come back with a fresh perspective.
  • Eudora apparently has a “Mood Watch” function, which highlights volatile phrases—one, two or three red chili peppers, depending on the burn.

This is a great reminder, especially when writing pitches or cover letters. Wit can be a great tool—as long as most readers get it. Clearly, subtlety is not the soul of wit.