Improve Your Style of Writing by Understanding Irony

Man with sand for sale

Irony has a solid place in storytelling. It enriches your story by bringing emotion to it. It’s often this emotion that people remember because an event happens in storytelling that takes people off guard. Irony incorporates an element of unpredictability. Keeping this in the forefront of your mind will improve your style of writing when you begin your stories.

Here we will look at some examples of writing that successfully use irony. Remember there is a twist to the story; that is, something happens that you didn’t think would happen. It jiggles your mind.

Improve your style of writing by learning about even more types of irony to use in your essays, stories, and poems.

Many factors go into essay writing and general writing. You can improve your style of writing by using these factors skillfully. By mastering dialogue, setting, and plot, and adding a great hook and irony, you will be well on your way to crafting a solid essay, story, or poem.

As noted by Glatch, “Irony is a moment in which the opposite of what’s expected actually occurs, a contrast between ‘“what seems to be”’ and ‘“what is.”’

Basically, there are three types of irony in literature. They are:

  • Dramatic
  • Situational
  • Verbal

Recognizing Dramatic Irony Will 
Improve Your Style of Writing

Sleeping woman and monster

Even if you don’t use all three types of irony in your stories, knowing about them will enrich your knowledge of the writing craft. Let’s start with a working definition of dramatic irony. 

Glatch tells us that, “Dramatic irony occurs when the audience knows something that the story’s characters do not. As such, fictional characters make erroneous decisions and face certain avoidable consequences. If only they had known what the audience knows!”


In the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, a disfigured serial killer, Frances Dolarhyde, is on the loose. But for the first time, he finds himself romantically involved with Reba, a woman he works with at a film processing laboratory. Reba is blind. And when Dolarhyde mistakenly believes that she’s seeing someone else, he becomes insanely jealous, and coupled with the fact that  Will Graham, the agent who hunts him, is closing in, Dolarhyde sets his house on fire with Reba inside. And he flees. However, Reba escapes the blaze, and Dolarhyde is later shot dead by Graham’s wife. 

What the audience knows that Reba doesn’t, is that her new partner, Dolarhyde, is a serial killer. She is not only physically blind, but she’s also blind to the truth. Ironically, what Reba thought was the beginning of a relationship, was almost the end of her life.

Some irony is comedic, some not.

Recognizing Situational Irony Will 
Improve Your Style of Writing

Woman wearing diamonds

As noted by Glatch, “Also known as irony of fate, of events, or of circumstance, situational irony describes plot events with unexpected or contradictory outcomes.”

Literature is filled with irony. It has you thinking one way and then it does an about-face. The device of irony surprises the reader.


One classic story in literature is The Necklace

Mathilde Loisel, the protagonist of Guy de Maupassant’s The Necklace, borrows a diamond necklace from a friend to attend a fancy ball because she wants to look wealthier. Ultimately, Mathilde ends up losing the jewels, plunging her and her husband into financial destitution. Ironically, at the end, she discovers the jewels she ruined her life to repay were fake. (Davenport)

While stories like the above abound in literature, we also see irony in movies. Remember the movie The Sixth Sense by M. Night Shyamalan? Throughout the story, the audience thought Willis’s character, a psychiatrist, was helping a boy who saw dead people. The irony came when Willis’s character, throughout the story, was dead, and that’s why the boy was able to see him.

The power of The Sixth Sense lies in the irony that comprised the entire story. The audience had the wool pulled over their eyes until the end. 

I’m sure you’ve run across examples of irony in real life as well as in literature. Here’s a real-life example of situational irony:

My daughter told me about an incident that happened to her when she lived for two years in a village in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Cat and mouse

She occupied a small two-bedroom house with a roommate. There were many mice in the wooded area, many coming into the house. Feeling frustrated, my daughter and her roommate brought in a cat to keep the rodents at bay. The cat’s presence drove the mice out of the home and into the surrounding countryside as expected. But the irony came when the cat, having toyed sufficiently with the mice, for whatever reason, would bring them back into the house, dead or alive!

Besides experiencing irony in real life, seeing it in movies, and reading about it in stories, you can also encounter irony in poetry. One type of poem notorious for using this device is the limerick. It often leaves you with a smile or chuckle.

Limerick example:

An Epicure, Dining at Crewe

An epicure, dining at Crewe,

found quite a large mouse in his stew,

said the waiter, “Don't shout,

and wave it about,

or the rest will be wanting one, too!”


Recognizing Verbal Irony Will 
Improve Your Style of Writing

Man in flood

Often, verbal irony includes sarcasm as well; it’s a specific type of irony. But not all verbal irony is sarcasm. Sarcasm says the opposite of what is meant, as does irony, but sarcasm intends to insult or criticize.

This type of irony “refers to the use of dialogue where one thing is spoken, but a contrasting meaning is intended. The key word here is intentional: verbal irony is not merely lying or speaking a faux pas, it’s an intentional use of contrasting language to describe something in particular” (Glatch).


In the movie Jurassic Park, there’s a scene where a boy, a girl, and a lawyer are stuck in a jeep in the rain while a T. rex is at large. The boy takes out a heavy light from a case in the jeep. The lawyer doesn’t want the boy to handle the light and asks him if it’s heavy. The lawyer then says that if it’s heavy then it’s expensive, and tells the boy to put it back.

Ironically, the lawyer equates heaviness with being expensive.

Here’s an example of a real-life situation that included verbal irony with sarcasm: 

My daughter asked me, “Can I borrow your green and blue, and yellow sweater to wear to tonight’s event? It’s an ugly sweater contest.”

Now you should be able to point out the dramatic irony, situational irony, and verbal irony with or without sarcasm in literature, film, and real life.

To explore other types of irony in literature, check them out here.

Images: Dream by Wombo

Glatch, Sean. “Irony Definition: Different Types of Irony in Literature.” Writers.Com, 8 June 2023,

Davenport, Barrie. “Writing with Irony: 15 Examples of Irony in Literature.” Authority Self-Publishing, 2 May 2023,