Monday, February 12, 2024

Tips to Add Humor to Your Writing

by Larry J. Leech II @LarryJLeechII

Jim Carrey. Adam Sandler. John Belushi. Bill Murray. Kevin James. Chris Rock. Robin Williams. Steve Martin. Tim Allen.

Oh, man. These guys could deliver a funny line like no one else! Combined, they have starred in dozens of laugh-out-loud, nearly-peed-my-pants movies. The list of movies and one-liners would be long, and I’m sure we’d stop and chuckle at a memory from each one.

But, what about humor in your story? Do you consciously avoid it? Interject it? Or does writing a funny quip or story come naturally for you?

If you need help adding humor to your story, don’t fret. You’re in a boat with a lot of other writers. Picking the right kind of humor—sarcasm, satire, self-deprecating humor, and situational humor—depends on the story and character. If you’re not sure if your humor tickles the funny bone, lean on your beta readers, coach, or writer’s group.

Couple of things to keep in mind to help write humor:

Keep your jokes short. Use funny words, humorous stories, and one-liners where it feels right. The wrong word or phrase will make the reader cringe. 

Aim for smiles, not laughs. You want to write something that delivers a subtle laugh that lingers. 

Use the rule of three. This common rule involves establishing a set pattern with two ideas and then subverting that pattern with a third, incompatible idea. For example, “Can I get you anything, sweetheart? Coffee? Bagel? A divorce?”

We see the rule of three in numerous other places:
  • Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – Rights outlined in the U.S. Declaration of Independence
  • Stop, Look, and Listen – A public road and level crossing safety slogan
  • Snap, Crackle, and Pop – Cartoon mascots of Rice Krispies

When you write, save the funny word or phrase for the last item in the series. That will ensure the maximum punch.

Use humor in dialogue. This is not only the logical place to add humor, but also will give the reader some insight into the character who delivers the quip, snarky comment, or quick laugh.

Don’t shy away from clichés. Yes, your writing coach and editor will flag cliches. But … the right cliché can be twisted into the perfect chuckle. This is one of the best examples I could find. Comedian Matt Wohlfarth once said, “Where there’s a will there’s a family fighting over it.”

That’s it. Sounds simple, right? Well, that’s the Reader’s Digest version. We have so many more ideas and techniques to make readers laugh. All you need to do is think, pray, and eat a doughnut.


Editor-in-Chief at Bold Vision Books and writing coach of award-winning authors, Larry J. Leech II has spent more than forty years writing and editing. He started his career as a sportswriter in southwestern Pennsylvania where he covered prep, college, and pro sports, including the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers. 

In 2004, after 2,300 published articles, Larry moved into the book publishing industry. Since that time, he has ghostwritten 30 books, edited more than 400 manuscripts, and coached hundreds of authors through the writing and publication process. You can find him online on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


  1. Great wisdom here. Have a blessed day! :-)

  2. Thank you! There’s this neuro pathway in me that blocks writing funny, so this “how-to” should help. I only occasionally stumble upon funny thus far, often to be met with this look from my family: 🙄