How To Be Funny (Or At Least Loosen Up A Bit)

female author looking away thinking about article holding textbook in hands

I think it's truly one of the highest compliments you can pay someone to say that they're funny. Many people have a great sense of humor, but to be able to engage people with wit and make them laugh (especially in writing) – that's a special quality.

I don't want to toot my own horn or anything, but I've been told a time or two that I'm a humorous writer. Sometimes I even make myself laugh a little with the things I write. Writing comes naturally to me, especially the kind of writing that allows me to speak as myself, like blogging for IFB, ESD and my personal blog. I do it so much that it's practically second nature, and what bubbles up on these pages is more-or-less exactly what would come out of my mouth (with some streamlined editing, of course).

Some people are just naturally funny; born with the gene that gives them a comedic sense of timing and the ability to tell stories that end with a punch. Many people are not. And in fact, learning to write with humor and lightness can be one of the toughest skills to master as a writer or blogger – but one of the most powerful too!

Even if you're not a natural-born Tina Fey or David Sedaris, there are a few practices you can employ to shake out the stiffness, find the joy and even stir up a few giggles with your writing. I'm no expert to be sure, but here's what I do to find inspiration, loosen up and funnel my best and most humorous self into my posts.

My best tips for being funny & loosening up your writing:

Read, read, read! And then read some more.

  • For all intents and purposes, this could be the only tip in this post. No blogger is an island, and you must, must, must read if you want to be relevant and reach people in this community. My writing style is a hybrid of all my favorite voices (at least it tries to be), from Fitzgerald to the Fug Girls, so I read it all – from books to blogs to magazines and advertisements – all the time. The more you read, the more voices and writing styles will file themselves away in your brain, ready to come out and play when called upon.

Watch sitcoms (without laugh tracks).

  • Television shows are a perfect way to get a pulse on what's funny now. Shows like Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, and 30 Rock are big hits because they tap into real life, draw on current events and the writers are comedic geniuses. With these shows its not about jokes, it's about circumstance and personalities. You're the star character of your blog, so draw on the experiences and relationships in your life. Watching shows like these can help you see humor where you might not have seen it before, and also get really familiar with comedic rhythm. Pay attention to the pace of speech: pauses, sentence length, word emphasis, etc. (I say no to laugh tracks because those kinds of shows go for the cheap laughs – and you're better than that.)

Hang out with the guys.

  • I don't want to be a traitor to the fairer sex, but let's be honest about something real quick: guys are funny. In everyday conversation they're less inhibited, less self-aware and usually not afraid to take a light jab at a friend for the sake of a good belly laugh. Seriously, sometimes I plop myself down on the couch at my guy-neighbors' apartment and just watch them. They're silly and goofy, they're casual and they're not gossiping. They tell stories, recount misadventures and tease each other mercilessly. It's a kind of light and friendly conversational attitude that I think can be really helpful to draw from when talking about fashion. After all, you want to pull your readers in, not freeze them out!

Think of your writing like a conversation.

  • I don't know if you guys see it this way, but I tend to pretend that you and I are chit-chatting over coffee in these posts. Granted it ends up being sort of a one-sided conversation at first, but then you chime in in the comments and before you know it – dialog! Think about the way you talk to your best friend, your mom, your coworkers. How do you build suspense when telling a story? When do you breath, when do you pause for dramatic effect – you can indicate all these moments in writing. Employ dashes, ellipses, commas, new paragraphs and italics, anything to make the reader see and hear what you're writing, as if you were face to face.

Read your writing back to yourself (out loud).

  • Or better yet, read it to a friend. When you say it out loud, you'll be able to communicate to your audience what kind of flow and rhythm you're trying to achieve. You'll also be able to spot type-o's, run-on sentences and dull moments in a heartbeat. If you smile while you read something you've written, you're on the right track.

Put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as it were).

  • Like The Fug Girls said in their PBS interview, writing is like a muscle. You've got to work it out, tone it and keep it in shape. Even if it's just for fun and something you never intend on publishing, try to write everyday. Write a poem, write a diary entry, write a letter to your mom. The more you practice, the stronger your voice will become, and the more natural it will feel. Before you know it, muscle memory will kick in and you'll be skipping through blog posts, laying down witty metaphors, breezing through amusing anecdotes and drawing out the perfect adjective for every look from the Jason Wu Fall/Winter 2012 collection.

Seriously? Relax.

  • I'm betting that if you like fashion, if you want to share your unique perspective and engage with a community – you're probably a fun and cool person with great things to say. (I mean, right?) So take a deep breath and be yourself. Be honest and be self-aware. If getting to the punch line and putting your audience in stitches isn't your thing – so what? Don't pretend to be a writer you aren't or don't want to be! You think Tina Fey is an idiot? Great. Write from the heart, speak from your gut and get your point across. As long as you're proud of what you're publishing and you think it represents who you are and how you feel, well that's the best thing you can do and all anyone could ask for!

*Bonus tip: For those who are serious about uping their writing game, pick up a copy of the book On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. A friend gave me this book a few years ago and I come back to it time and time again to center myself, refresh on the basics and get inspired. It's an easy read and one that will help your writing immensely, especially if you didn't study journalism or writing in school.

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13 Responses

  1. Brónagh

    That is a really great article! I’m not the most naturally funny person, I prefer to listen to the joke. Since starting to blog however, humor in writing is something I have really wanted to develop!

    Thanks! Bx Glamour and Grunge

  2. Christy Lorio

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for writing this!

    I try to inject a little humor into most everything I do, so many fashion blogs are too serious. I say relax and enjoy the process! No one wants to follow a blog that is stiff and uptight, that’s what Vogue is for (yea I went there).

    In my two years of blogging I have only received one nasty comment, and I think it’s my self depreciating humor that keeps that haters at bay. If you can’t poke a little fun at yourself then you’re taking yourself too seriously I think.

  3. togzhan

    It is great tutorial for general writing not just for fun writing! Thank you for this.
    For a person who firstly never had writing experience before (except some serious study stuff) and secondly for whom English is not native writing is big trick. And consequently writing improvement is main focus of my blogging trip.
    And I will agree that reading is the best way to improve writing skills (i want to believe that hundreds of articles & books & manuals already affect my writing skills;-)). At least now I easier express myself on paper instead of sitting by hours glaring at screen wasn`t able to write single line.

    What is clear for me so far is that for writing you need to have two parts: what to write (ideas & thoughts etc.) and where to write (paper, laptop, typing machine etc.) the rest is the matter of translating first part to the second and that is the habit of good writing – that writing flow and that is where practising affects most. Which is basically good news (for me at least) meaning that ever single person can learn to write.
    Good luck in blogging, writing and life in general!

  4. Jadeee

    Great tips! I love having a laugh at things written on blogs and I hope that sometimes people have a bit of a giggle at something I’ve said too xx

  5. Marcia

    Although I’ve been told both on my blog and in real life that I have a serious sense of humor, I agree with the tips. And just one more addition: watch. Mean. Girls. I drop a Mean Girls reference every single day and it works. Ah, the life of an American teenager/blogger.

  6. Vanessa

    This is such a great post, it’s so hard for me to write and I think I’m a pretty funny person in person….lol….

    I will be using some of these technique and not take my blog “so serious”

    THANKS!! =D

  7. Emmy

    Love these tips. I myself am drawn to reading writers that don’t take themselves too seriously and can laugh at themselves (aside from making others laugh:)). One book that’s also been recommended a lot for writers by writers is that EB White book Elements of Style.

  8. Dayner

    I really like this article…. humour makes the world go round for me, and I can’t get enough of reading blogs that make me feel like I’m chatting to a funny friend!

  9. Frugal Flirty N Fab!

    When i look back at my paast blog post i absolutely luv that a majority of them have a sense of humor to them. I think this is something that seperates me from other fashion bloggers. I luv that it just comes natural….http://www.frugalflirtynfab.com/

  10. Dana

    I couldn’t have stumbled upon this post at a better time. I was just thinking to myself this morning, “Self, why so serious?” Seriously, my writing can be pretty dull. I want to find it in myself to cut loose a little and get a laugh or two, because I know that it’s key to engaging my readers. Thanks so much!

  11. Just Sammthing

    Really good and interesting article! I think it’s really helpful.

    I personally find it hard to write a post that’s funny for everyone. Humour isn’t always universal, I mean, we in the Netherlands have another sense of humour than people in the USA or the UK for example. Dutch humour in general is way tougher than American humour. Some people might find it rude or inappropriate, so I’m pretty cautious not to insult people.