Humor as a part of tone is relevant to how technical writers project their information to their intended audiences. Many technical writers and editors of technical writing believe humor to be an inappropriate expression in most forms of technical documents. Other writers and scientists have linked humor to human health and believe humor to be appropriate in certain circumstances in technical writing. Recent studies have shown that humor can do anything from lengthen attention spans to reducing stress (Breeze 49). Humor, if used correctly, can become a social outlet for increasing creativity, increasing productivity, and reducing hostility.
Dan Jones, author of Technical Writing Style, applauds the use of humor in technical writing when it is used effectively. Humor can become a great motivator “for novices who are intimidated by the subject matter” (Jones 204). Humor can function in many different ways within a single technical document: by persuading a reluctant audience, gaining interest and attention with entertainment, and creating solidarity with lay audiences who may feel out of their depth (204). A study by Gorkin in the mid-nineties found that humor boosts productivity by stimulating the right hemisphere of the brain which increased problem solving abilities and induced “divergent, creative thinking, which allows individuals to see broader applications, novel connections, and otherwise elusive relationships” (Vartabedian 10). Humor can also increase the attention spans of workers doing repetitive tasks by reducing tension and boredom.