April Fools stories and the links with fake news

Linguistic analysis of detail, vagueness, formality and complexity sheds light on hoaxes

April fool techniques overlap with those of fake news.

April fool techniques overlap with those of fake news.


April Fools’ Day has come and gone, bringing with it “amusing” spoof stories including the Drone Dog Walker and Tinder’s new height verification badge. These japes may prove useful, say researchers at Lancaster University in the UK who are studying them to better understand the language of fake news.

Gathering over 500 April Fools articles from 370 different websites from the past 14 years, experts in natural language processing are learning about how malicious fake news stories are written by examining specific aspects of spoof stories including detail versus vagueness and the formality and complexity of language used.

Longer sentences

By using the April Fools stories as a baseline, they were able to find similarities including the use of less complex language, more frequent use of proper nouns, and longer sentences than genuine news articles.

“April Fools hoaxes are very useful because they provide us with a verifiable body of deceptive texts that give us an opportunity to find out about the linguistic techniques used when an author writes something fictitious disguised as a factual account,” said Edward Dearden from Lancaster University, and lead-author of the research.