How to Use Humor in Your Writing — And Still Convert

by | Apr 1, 2023 | writing

Business and humor rarely exist in the same sentence, as the prevailing assumption has always been that professionalism and comedy are mutually exclusive. For most people, business means keeping your head down, doing your work, and reading memos only thoroughly enough to keep from getting fired.

In reality, humor can play a key role in the success of your brand. Sharing a funny moment or making someone laugh is one of the fastest ways to get them to like you. Infusing your writing with creative and funny copy helps you connect with your clients and show them you are approachable.

The Psychology of Humor

Comedy is an adaptive skill and is an effective way to deal with life’s daily onslaught of trauma (*cough* the 24-hour news cycle *cough*). Aside from being entertaining, humor has proven psychological benefits. If you’re frustrated with something, mad at someone, or generally have some feelings to work through, it can help to use comedy to express yourself. Of course, you may have to do some editing to keep everything business casual, but you gain a lot from laughing about your issues. Let it rip (but remember to proofread it before you send it to your boss).

Humor isn’t just cathartic; it’s good for your body and is known to have some health benefits. Laughing or even finding something quietly amusing boosts the brain’s feel-good chemistry. It increases serotonin and dopamine levels, releases endorphins that can alleviate pain, helps regulate blood pressure and heart rate, boosts the immune system, and can even help improve focus. In other words, the best medicine is laughter.

Though your audience probably won’t seek out your writing to help get over a cold, there will be a real psychological response if you make them laugh. Humans are addicted to Dopamine rushes, so if you can give someone a bit of that sweet hormone, they’ll probably come back for more (or at least shop at your online storefront).

Rules to Follow

Adding humor to your writing can be intimidating. After all, without a live audience to give you immediate feedback, it’s hard to tell if what you’re saying is coming across the way you want it to. Fortunately, we have some tips to follow to help inspire your project and keep your brand from being blacklisted.

1. You Aren’t a Comedian

I’m sure it’s a great relief to your parents (and your bank account) that you are not a professional comedian. Not only do stand-up comedians often imbibe various questionable substances, but their job is also to push the envelope and often cause controversy as a result. When you sit down to write content, reminding yourself of this fact is helpful.

This kind of humor is unwelcome in business settings and can alienate or offend your audiences. Though you can certainly have political stances as a brand, it’s usually best to avoid making extraneous jokes about hot-button issues in a casual or regular content setting. Don’t try to be edgy; this isn’t SNL (in the 90s).

2. Pick a Common Enemy

Picking a common enemy is a great way to get readers laughing and on your side. Generally, this should be something that a) doesn’t have feelings and b) is relatively universal. The following are some examples:

Poking fun at competitors or regular industry complaints can help to narrow your audience. Additionally, poking fun at some elements of your brand can be another great way to get your audience laughing. Depending on your industry, you can add more specifics to this list.

3. Be Conversational

One of the best ways to get someone to laugh is to make them feel like you’re on their side. Write in the tone of someone speaking casually to a friend, adding side comments, like you would to your friend at brunch or while watching a movie. You can also include asides, which are often rhetorical questions, make witty remarks, or exaggerate or state the obvious. When the aside is unexpected, it can create additional opportunities for light humor and is another great way to connect with your audience.

4. Punch Up

Batman is a well-known character that takes on many enemies; however, nobody wants to watch a movie where Batman beats up Alfred. Alfred is old, and Batman has a whole cave of tools at his disposal. The fight would be a poor match, and we’d all feel bad for Alfred. 

When someone has a distinct advantage, it isn’t fun to watch them make fun of someone who is at a disadvantage. Rather, it makes us feel uncomfortable and sad. However, watching a victim take on their bully and win is inspiring and is the fodder for many an action movie. The latter concept is called “punching up” and is a great way to ensure you’re being funny and not cruel.

Punching down is the opposite, and it’s never a good idea. You should never make fun of a group worse off than you or that holds a minority position. It isn’t funny and reflects poorly on your brand, something your marketing team is probably not going for.

5. Start Slow

If adding humor to your marketing campaign is a goal of yours, be sure to start slowly. Don’t try to cram too many quips into the same piece or make a joke work if it isn’t coming naturally. For instance, you can start with a short story or anecdote about your brand, infusing light humor and inspiring a connection with your audience. This is a great way to humanize your brand with your audience while providing quality content.

Ask for Help

Writing isn’t easy, especially when you are new to using humor to connect with your audience. If you are having a difficult time or are feeling stuck, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Our team at Better Content Matters can work with you to develop a brand voice (and sense of humor) that is all your own. Contact us to get started.


Gabby Vandenavond