Humor is the spice that makes our lives worth living, don’t we all agree on that? And while you feel quite comfortable making jokes in conversations and sometimes even to yourself with a mental note to say it out loud on an appropriate occasion, it is quite difficult to reflect your humor in writing. Of course, serious academic papers are not a place for japes, but less formal – let’s say creative writing – assignments literally call for some wit.
How to add humor to your writing? How to make your readers smile and giggle when you want them to? How not to go over the limit? Here is what we can recommend.
1. Use metaphors and similes. You are probably already applying them quite generously in your writing, now make them funnier. Compare incomparable things. References to animals with knowingly ill nature work just fine (He was as condescending as a cat, wondering why those despicable humans haven’t brought their daily sacrifices yet). If your writing is already finished and you want to spice it up a bit, simply change the metaphors you can find in it to funnier ones.
2. The rule of three. According to Leigh Anne Jasheway, who has been teaching humorous writing for over sixteen years, the rule of three is one of the most universal ways to make your reader laugh. Using this trick, you give two logical and predictable statements and then end up with a ‘punch line’. Remember all those jokes about three things that a man could eternally look at? Everybody agrees on the first two – water and flames – but the last one is always different (other people working, etc.) In fact this joke got so popular that it led to a joke about a joke: a person could eternally look at three things – how fire burns, how water flows and anything else, as long as it fits the author’s purpose.
3. The use of ‘g’ and ‘k’ for some reason makes people smile. It probably has some psychological explanation, but this is not what must bother you. Simply use the relevant words, and it will help you sound funnier.
4. Make fun of yourself. This is the easiest way to avoid hurting some else’s feelings, because whatever you are joking about, there is a person who considers this object sacred and joking about it – a blasphemy. Do not be hard on sarcasm though – you don’t want to sound disappointed in yourself, but rather a bit amused at what could happen to you in real life.
5. The obvious – funny stories. Even a single humorous anecdote can refresh your writing and give your reader a break to breathe before he manages the other half of your serious writing. However, make sure that this anecdote is actually funny not only to you, i.e. choose relevant jokes for relevant audiences.
6. Make hints at famous humorous statements. If there is a widely-known comedian’s joke, you can cite a few first words and leave the rest to hang in the air. Be careful to choose really famous ones.
7. Quote mark twains, meaning other writers with widely recognized sense of humor. Mark Twain’s quotations are the most relevant, as they are full of irony, but not sarcasm. They make readers laugh at the world around, yet not feel offended for being a part of it. Also, it shows you as a writer with a good taste for literature.
Last but not least, do not overspice your essay. If humor does not come naturally to you in writing, use it scarcely and wisely, or you will sound like a very bad comedian who struggles for attention of his audience.