A singular ha is the smallest amount of jocularity that retains the properties of laughter. It is the atomic level of laughing. Used infrequently to indicating grudging laughter, such as from an unfunny joke delivered by one’s employer, or when the typist is upset but forced to concede the source material is funny.
Like the atomic ha, heh indicates the lowest levels of amusement, but unlike the frequently reluctant ha, heh indicates honest enjoyment, albeit a small amount.
The most common form used, haha communicates that something is genuinely funny. It can be assumed that this is a quiet, inward enjoyment. If you could see the typist, they would likely be smiling, but not laughing out loud.
Similar to haha, hehe is used to indicate general amusement, though perhaps declining. Useful when a friend has been saying funny things for awhile, but the typist is losing interest and needs to get back to work. [ref. Figure 1]
Infrequently used by men, since it seems feminine. Primarily used in reaction to titillating source material or imitating schoolgirls.
Used when a joke is unreservedly funny, often as an escalation from an earlier use of haha to indicate a greater level of enjoyment.
Anything over four ‘ha‘s is equivalent, and represents uncontrolled laughter, frequently audible.
Although it technically stands for “laughing out loud,” use of lol frequently indicates the opposite. Due to early overuse on the internet, lol is now often used ironically, or as a general shorthand for mocking laughter.
Used exclusively for laughing at memes.
About Scott Vandehey
Scott is a CSS Ninja who has been creating web sites for over 15 years. He lives in sunny Portland, Oregon with his wife and daughter, and spends his free time playing video games and watching movies. He is probably not a Cylon.