Making Use of Humor in Writing: Why and How

We all love a good laugh; it brings us together and helps alleviate any tension. That is why we use humor on a daily basis, when we are trying to strike a conversation, hook an audience, or even when we share funny cat videos with friends and family. 

But while it is there in all aspects of life, humor writing might not come easily to most of us. Maybe because it isn’t one-size-fits-all; what some might find funny, others might simply not understand. So to help you make use of humor in writing, whether fiction or nonfiction, we are going to explore many techniques in this article.

using humor in writing

What Is Humor?

Before we embark on how to write humor, let’s look at what humor is in the first place. Some define it as an emotional experience that leads to laughter. It is often subjective and biased; different cultures find different things to be funny. It can also be the result of an unexpected action or phrase when set up in the correct context.

According to Neil Gaiman, the famous British author, humor is “that moment where you see something that you’ve always thought, but somebody has articulated it. And they’ve articulated it in a way that you’ve never seen before. […] It’s the joy of the unexpected. Whether it’s broad or whether it’s subtle, is always vital.”

What Is the Purpose of Humor in Writing?

Almost all kinds of writing can benefit from some humor. So whether you are trying to write a comedy show or just want to add a little joy to a serious piece, you should know how to make your readers laugh. 

Here is why humor is important in writing:

  1. Humor grabs readers’ attention and elevates any piece of writing.
  2. Finding the funny side of things helps in reducing tension and stress.
  3. Writing humor needs creativity, which enhances your ability as a writer and makes the writing process more enjoyable.
  4. Laughter does a very good job of bringing people together and affecting the way they think. 
  5. Using humor correctly can affect how much your readers like your work and strengthen the bond you have with them.
writing humor

What Are the Types of Humor Writing?

In order to successfully use it in your writing, you need to understand the different types of humor to identify what goes best with your writing style. The main types of humor are: 

  • Satire: This type of humor looks at the faults of others, be it an individual, organization, or society at large. It is often used as constructive social criticism.
  • Self-deprecating humor: Just like satire that makes fun of others, in this type of humor the writer makes fun of himself. This makes the writer appear vulnerable but also brings him closer to his readers.
  • Situational humor: Describe an everyday, mundane situation that is actually funny. The humor in this type arises not from the use of words but from the events themselves. 
  • Understatement: Take an event that is actually a big deal and deliberately undermine it, like in the novel The Catcher in the Rye, when a character says, “I have to have this operation… It isn’t very serious. I have this tiny little tumor on the brain.”
  • Overstatement: Making a big deal out of a rather trivial situation can sometimes amuse the reader.
  • Dark humor: Remember the many memes that appeared during the 2020 lockdown? That is dark comedy, which takes an unpleasant situation and makes fun of it.

How to Add Humor into Your Writing?

There are many techniques that famous authors use and recommend for adding humor into writing. But as we explore each of them, remember that writing humor isn’t always about being funny or telling jokes; sometimes the turn of events can arise humor. So to help you get started, here are some tricks you could use in your writing.

Find Your Own Humor

First and foremost, you need to identify your own style. Study what you think of as funny. If a joke makes you laugh, find out why it resonates with you. If there is a certain formula that you find especially amusing, try using it in your writing. 

But remember that you shouldn’t try to be funny by overdoing it; instead, just try to make yourself laugh. Because if you don’t enjoy your own humor, probably no one else will.

Respect Your Audience and Your Book Genre

It’s true that humor can be added to almost any type of writing. But it is also true that not all readers accept humor the same way. For example, while a cooking show can make use of a few jokes, the audience of a true-crime documentary might find them disruptive.

Write Stories from Real Life

We all have some funny stories that we tell at parties or social gatherings that our friends find funny too. These stories help us connect with those around, and they would definitely help you connect with your readers. Just make sure before using this story in your writing that you understand why it is funny, and that you convey this reason to your readers.

These stories don’t have to be something that happened to you. Instead, you can quote funny people in your life. So keep an eye out for those humorous stories others share, and bring them into your writing.

Use Humor in Dialogue

One way to insert humor, especially in fiction, is to add it to the dialogue. This doesn’t only make the reader laugh, but it can also help him understand the dynamics between characters, and it helps change the pace of the story.

Apply the Rule of Three

This rule is one of the widely used techniques in humor writing. It entails establishing a certain idea with a list of two things, then subverting this pattern with a third idea. Here’s an example: “Would you like me to get you anything else? A cup of water? A sandwich? A better life?”

Include a Funny Narrator

When you have a funny narrator in your story, readers get to see things from a lighter perspective, as this narrator has an interesting way of viewing events and the world around them. This is known as narrative humor, and it is especially useful when the narrator is the protagonist, narrating the story from the first-person point of view.

Leverage the Power of Comparison

One way to add humor is by making funny comparisons. Think of them as metaphors that are used for comedic purposes. For example, if you want to say that it’s hard to lose weight, think of other things that are also universally hard or even impossible, such as flossing a cat’s teeth or fighting a T-Rex. Then choose the one that delivers your point and makes you laugh at the same time.

Don’t Shy Away from Clichés 

Yes it’s true, clichés can be boring and sometimes using them is considered lazy writing, but that isn’t always the case. You can make use of clichés for comic effect by twisting them and surprising your readers; this process is known as reforming. This can be also done with any famous sayings, lyrics, or movie quotes. For example, the comedian Matt Wohlfarthonce once said, “Where there’s a will there’s a family fighting over it.”

Use Puns in Smart Ways

Puns are words that have more than one meaning or words that sound the same but have different homonyms. When used wisely, puns can be a great source of humor that intrigues the readers and makes them think. Look at this joke for example, “Will glass coffins be a success? Remains to be seen.”

Test Your Humor

You might have a great, funny idea that you would like to include in your writing. But before doing so, remember to test it first. You can do this by reading it out loud to an audience, like the American humorist David Sedaris who used to make notes whenever the audience laughed as he read. When there is a joke that they didn’t laugh at, he knew that if he used it in his writing, readers would be skimming and not actually reading.

Final Thoughts

It’s often said that laughter is the best medicine. And just like anything else in life, making your readers laugh takes practice; just don’t be afraid to use your own voice. Start now by applying the above-mentioned tips to engage your readers and make their day a little bit brighter.

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