Most of the times, I don't lol. Yes, there's no loudness in my laugh at all. And, 'lol' is probably used by everyone on the Internet/mobile even though when they laugh little. 'lol' is also used when the matter is not of some joke [However, I strictly avoid such usage].

For instance, in chat...

I know you are at Ruby's house
lol, I've not visited hers for past one month.

Now, if I use 'haha', is it considered offensive? Especially to native speakers. Let's say, I'm talking to my client who is from London or NYC. If she says something little funny which should not be replied with LOUD laughing, is it okay to use 'hahaha'. Will she consider that as an offensive gesture?

For instance...

Julia: Hello Maulik, I was busy yesterday. Sorry, I could not contact you.
Me: That is fine.
Julia: Yeah...I was pissed off; my boss flooded my inbox with loads of work.
Me: lol/hahaha/haha I hope you are okay now!

Finally, does the number of repetition matter? "Haha" is okay but not 'Hahaha' which may have a bit of offensiveness?

Is it okay if I use 'lol' there? I don't think so...it's not something I'll laugh out loud.

I'd like to clear that in this example, Julia is NOT my bosom-friend. She's a client and we know each other for past 10 days. That's it.

  • 11
    It might be worth mentioning that "out loud" doesn't mean "loud." "out loud" simply means "audibly." "Lol" originally signified something funny enough to actually make you laugh, but it seems to have degenerated to merely suggesting the statement you are responding to is funny.
    – Patrick
    Jan 3, 2015 at 14:33
  • 4
    Side note: Your "That is fine." seems angry to me, i.e., "I'm annoyed, but whatever." "That's fine!" would seem to be actually OK. (That's why I love this forum--constantly shedding light on how difficult our language is!) Jan 3, 2015 at 18:31
  • @thumbtackthief I'd probably go with "no problem" and avoid any kind of passive aggression that "fine" creates.
    – Holloway
    Jan 3, 2015 at 21:20
  • 4
    In response to Julia, I probably would've used "heh". Just enough to indicate light, sympathetic, possibly wry humor, while not indicating any actual laughter at the irritating situation. Jan 4, 2015 at 5:35
  • @thumbtackthief I have a love/hate relationship with punctuation on the internet. Obviously, I write most of my SE posts in the best formal English I know, but online, often punctuating a sentence a certain way changes its meaning. For example, "fine" vs. "fine.", as you note, or "actually never mind" vs. "Actually, never mind."
    – user45266
    Apr 16, 2019 at 5:51

6 Answers 6


Julia: Hello Maulik, I was busy yesterday. Sorry, I could not contact you.
Me: That is fine.
Julia: Yeah...I was pissed off; my boss flooded my inbox with loads of work.
Me: lol/hahaha/haha I hope you are okay now!

In that particular dialog, I wouldn't use "lol" or "hahaha"; I think the exclaimation point handles it just fine:

Julia: Yeah...I was pissed off; my boss flooded my inbox with loads of work.
Response: I hope you are okay now!

Since you're not laughing about this, I would avoid anything like lol, haha, hahaha, or bwah-ha-ha. If you don't want to let the exclamation convey your surprised sympathy on its own, there are better alternative exclamations:

Julia: My boss flooded my inbox with loads of work.
Response: Oh, no! I hope you are okay now.


Julia: My boss flooded my inbox with loads of work.
Response: Yikes! I hope you are okay now.


Julia: My boss flooded my inbox with loads of work.
Response: Ouch! I hope you are okay now.

The word ouch might be considered a bit informal there, but Wiktionary supports such usage:

ouch (interj.) 1 An expression of one's own physical pain.  2 An expression in sympathy at another's pain.

I don't think the problem here is that lol or hahaha are considered "offensive" – but they are inappropriate. I'm assuming you're not laughing at someone else's pain, but you are trying to show sympathy in a lighthearted way. Here's my advice: avoid using laughter to do this; save lol for things that both people would find funny or amusing.

This is how NOAD defines yikes:

yikes (exclamation) informal expressing shock and alarm, often for humorous effect : I had a dip in the 40-degree pool (yikes!).

I think that's closer to the emotion you are trying to convey.

  • very useful recommendations. Thanks! :) And wish you a very happy new year.
    – Maulik V
    Jan 4, 2015 at 4:47

I wouldn't use any of these very informal, text-speak type things with a client.* But if you must, I'd suggest a sad smiley :-( would be a more appropriate way of sympathising with her inbox situation than either 'lol' or 'hahaha'.

*Although arguably Julia has already moved to informality with her use of 'pissed off' which is normally considered inappropriate in a business situation as well.

  • Right. 'Lol', even in a text message, is very informal and quite juvenile. Not appropriate for communication with a client unless they're someone you know very well. (BrEng)
    – A E
    Jan 4, 2015 at 16:04

I would not use haha(ha) in the instance you have presented (Schadenfreude). That aside, hahaha is more apt to be taken for irony than haha, and haha is more apt to be taken for irony than LOL.

I say this because of the intonation patterns typically associated with hahaha and haha. (LOL is strictly textual.) Hahahā (longer final syllable with a drop) often means you might think that's funny but the humor is at my expense whereas haha usually means simply "I think that's funny (too)" though hahā (longer final syllable with a drop) can imply the humor is at my expense.

LOL is usually taken at face value: laughing out loud.

  • 7
    I absolutely disagree that there is any significant distinction in the particular choice for the spelling of these onomatopoeias. Certainly these terms can indicate derision, Schadenfreude, irony, and many things more, but that is all context (and, when speaking, intonation, but that is not consistently carried over into text).
    – KRyan
    Jan 3, 2015 at 15:45
  • 1
    I used the phrase " apt to be" which does not mean that they will necessarily be, so your absolute disagreement is vis-a-vis a non-absolute position. Moreover, you are saying, without qualification, that no person will find any difference between them because of an inconsistency in the way tone carries over into text. I find your logic there to be flawed. The question is whether they can be understood differently. Jan 3, 2015 at 16:15
  • 1
    @TRomano Agreed, but keep in mind that in any case, very few people will actually distinguish them. Especially the younger generation(s) (mine), where lol, haha, hahahaha, roflmao, roflcopter, etc, are all used pretty interchangeably and nobody really interprets them significantly different. It may be different for older generations who didn't grow up with the use of these onomatopoeia, but they shouldn't be considered to be something that needs to be analyzed; their use is contextual and trying to differentiate them is kind of insane in my opinion considering their intended use. Jan 3, 2015 at 23:31
  • 2
    I believe that under most circumstances, if any variation on hahaha would be offensive in context, then lol be equally offensive, and vice versa.
    – senderle
    Jan 4, 2015 at 0:42
  • @Chris Cirefice: You're helping me to make my point. Some people who were born in the 1950s and 1960s have been using these terms since before the younger generation were born. The internet came into popular use in the 1990s. So neither the younger generation nor the older generation gets to say what these words and acronyms mean, for they mean whatever they mean to the communities that use them. Thus, communication via email (especially if the recipient's age is unknown) presents an opportunity for miscommunication when people assume that everyone uses these terms identically. Jan 4, 2015 at 0:54

There is no solid, objective, universal distinction made between these options. When communicating audibly, of course, there is a great variety of meanings that can be implied by laughter itself, and still more that can be implied by not laughing and instead stating "haha".

But in written communication, all of that variety is compressed into a series of mostly-interchangeable stand-ins for laughter. These stand-ins are not a part of formal writing, and certainly don't follow any formal rules, nor are there any rules that are "understood" by the majority of English speakers.

Which means any or all of them can be and often are misinterpreted, and can be perceived as negative. The only chance to add clarity is through context, and mix-ups are inevitable. English just has no way to express intonation in its writing system. You just have to hope that between context and your relationship with the listener, your intent is clear.

  • 1
    English language is not a tonal language, but English has intonation patterns. They're different things entirely. Jan 3, 2015 at 16:18

Okay, so I just realised that I didn't answer the question, which is 'Haha' over 'lol' -Do natives consider 'hahaha' as an offensive gesture? Whenever I see "hahaha" it doesn't seem offensive at all. It makes me think the person whose written it doesn't want the prior stuff they've written to be taken too seriously; hence, the reason adolescents use "hahaha" so often. They're always seeking approval and are often not sure about how their written communication is going to be taken. I think its inappropriate to use either lol or hahaha when writing to a client in a business sense.


2019: Am seeing a rise in "Oof" (internet pop culture reference) as a more negative version of the ubiquitous-to-the-point-of-inapropriate "lol".

Aside from that, punctuation matters.

Haha. I hope you are okay now.


haha I hope you are okay now

That first one almost seems nonplussed, impatient even. I don't think the number of "ha" or "he" matters, but do avoid things like "hehahe". I don't think that laughing too much could ever be thought of as rude or offensive.

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