When you are writing web page content, you often have the opportunity to try your hand at different “voices.” One of the voices you may choose is to give your writing a humorous tone—in particular, using puns. While it is obvious that some pieces may not be the right ones for humor (such as legal writing services), in other cases the decision to pun or not to pun is not as clear. When you are trying to decide if sharing the punny will show you the money, keep these helpful hints in mind.
- Is it too soon? One mistake many writers make is joking about something that is too close to the heart of the reader. For instance, a joke or pun about a celebrity may be funny, but if that celebrity has recently passed away, it loses its appropriateness. If in doubt, leave it out.
- Humor can lighten a tense mood. Therefore, an article about a serious subject can be the perfect time to share a funny moment. However, use caution to make sure you do not go too far with your humor. Perhaps start with a pun or funny quip and then slide into the more serious topic at hand—if you throw one joke after another at the reader, he or she will not know when the subject turns serious.
- A word to the wise. Growing up, my friend’s mom had a saying: “The first time is funny, the second time is silly…the third time is a spanking, so you better watch out!” While you may not get “spanked” as a writer, it is an important thing to remember about any type of humor. Humor turns from funny, to silly, to worthy-of-punishment—don’t take things too far!
- Keep it simple (stupid). Remember, not all of your readers have the same background or education that you do. Therefore, you have to think to yourself whether your joke will be appreciated or if it will fall flat. This is especially important if you are referencing pop culture or niche interests that not everyone may understand.
- Avoid sarcasm. While sarcasm is a very valid comedic principle, it simply does not translate well to the written word. Puns, clichés and comparison jokes all work better in text than sarcasm does.
As you can see, when it comes to humor there really is a time and a place for everything. If you are ever unsure if you should attempt a pun or another form of humor when you are writing web page content, don’t be afraid to ask. Most of my clients have been happy when I have asked for clarification. I love to write content that inspires laughs as well as educates, but I do understand that sometimes it is important to play the straight (wo)man.
Tracy S is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.