Gettin’ Silly Wit It: 4 Tips to Use Humor in Business Writing
Business writing doesn’t have to mean boring writing. But most copy we encounter is about as dry as Ben Stein licking sandpaper.
Infusing humor into your writing is a great way to connect with people, instead of always focusing on search engines. You don’t have to write for late-night to get in some good jokes either. Here are a few tips to spice up your business writing with humor.
Gettin’ silly wit it: how to use humor in business writing
I’m Victor, a copywriter at AppSumo.
One thing I love about the AppSumo voice is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s room to accommodate a ton of cultural references and off-color jokes to keep readers engaged—which is key because, you know, I’m a writer. And we like when people actually read our sh*t.
So take a look at a few of the techniques we use to infuse the funnies into our voice while also getting our point across (we do still need to sell stuff, after all).
Plus, get a quick rundown of what to avoid in the process of aiming for knee-slappers.
4 Fast Tips to Add Humor to Your Writing Voice
1. Get weird
Normal is boring. The humor is in the specifics. Make seemingly niche references, include hot takes on popular trends, and trust that your audience will follow you. The goal isn’t to write for everyone, because everyone has a different sense of humor.
Write for your intended readers. People new to your brand will laugh that much harder because they’ll have found their place (belonging is a helluva drug).
In other words, if you think the world isn’t ready for your fixation on Furby’s and/or the All That theme song, you are absolutely wrong. Check out an example straight from our site:
2. Throw a curveball
Humor should be unexpected, like seeing your high school crush at the grocery store or getting any kind of acceptable customer service from Comcast (jk, that’s impossible).
Try setting up a series of things and then flip the script on the last item. Or add quick jabs in parentheses to freshen up those stale sentences.
Mainly, you want to keep the reader on their toes. They’ll be more inclined to engage with your writing and read to the end if there are a few laughs as a reward sprinkled in with the standard stuff. Subvert those expectations for funny little firecrackers. We love these at AppSumo.
3. Pick a persona
If the word “persona” triggers a flashback to your unfinished save file of any of the popular Persona games, then I’m sorry. But I’m gonna need you to suck it straight up; we have writing to talk about.
You need to nail down the company persona and voice to get a bead on your best humor. Definitely don’t try to be your full, complex self during copywriting. You want the surface-level affect of a Tinder date. Think snarky twenty-something, prankster uncle, fed-up office worker, or literally just Lucille Bluth.
At AppSumo, we’re the witty coach with a soft spot for 90’s nostalgia.
Find your persona and stick to it (a.k.a. get it right, get it tight).
4. Drop the ball
Look, if LeBron James actually made every single shot, we’d all hate him (instead of just Cleveland fans). You don’t need every joke to land, and you can take the pressure off yourself by purposely throwing up an airball or two.
Make a cringeworthy pun, get carried away with an extended metaphor, or share an embarrassing personal anecdote to get a different kind of laugh. These moments of weakness work double duty to be both endearing and entertaining, so readers are more likely to stick with you, even when you miss a layup (see below).
3 key things to avoid
1. Being extra
Don’t oversaturate your writing with jokes. For business writing, the humor should be a welcome seasoning, not the whole dish.
Your first goal is to clearly convey your point and value proposition, and everything else should revolve around that. Get your purpose across succinctly, and people will appreciate you not taking up all of their time with fluff—even if it’s funny.
2. Being a d*ck
Mean isn’t endearing. Punching down isn’t classy. You don’t want to turn the reader off by being overly negative or brutally critical of others.
A well-meaning jab at a celebrity or multinational corporation is appreciated, but don’t rely on being bitter to score some cheap laughs.
3. Being basic
Remember what we said about surprising your audience? Predictability is your worst enemy. If it feels like anyone could have written the same joke, then scrap it and try another angle.
You want your punchlines to be your calling card and set you apart from the competition. So don’t go too generic or too proper with the jokes if you want them to actually land. Let the reader see the human behind the brand.
Think you’re real funny, huh?
Everybody likes to laugh, and humor is a great way to differentiate yourself from others in your space.
Whether you’re a startup just defining your voice or a side-hustler looking to attract more clients, having a solid grasp of how to infuse the funnies into your writing will add more interest from all parties. Plus, it’s your chance to show that all copy isn’t written by robots or corporate automatons (as much as Jeff Bezos wants it to be).
Throw in a few jokes and let that personality shine through for better results and better business. Because a little laughter goes a long way toward keeping both readers and writers slightly more sane.