How to write witty copy

By Mel Sim

Because sometimes you need the punchline to sell.

You know how you sit in front of your computer and wait and wait and wait for the punchline to come so you can put it into your copy?

Well, the punchline is this: Sometimes it doesn’t come and your copy reads flat. But that’s OK because most of the time, you don’t really need humour in your copy to do a good job. Especially if you’re writing a corporate report or preparing a client presentation where you want facts, not funnies.

But sometimes, whether it is within your job role or maybe in your personal capacity like your social media posts, being witty in your copy can make all the difference between someone reading just the first paragraph vs reading all the way to the end of what you’ve written. And knowing that you’ve got a few readers who made it all the way to the end is what will keep you writing more…

In fact, that is the first rule of writing witty: Practice.

Wait, can you really “practise” to be funny? Think of it as a muscle you need to flex. Sure, witty people are naturally witty but if they don’t flex that witty muscle, it can go flat and underused, pretty much like any other muscle.

So to flex your witty muscle, you just need more practice as in write more and let the wit naturally flow into your copy. Readers can tell when your wit is forced (because it’s not funny) but if it is something you do regularly, the witty ideas flow naturally and you’ll have a few gems.

Other ways to write witty copy? Here are some suggestions:

#1 Let it go!
This is the same as flexing your witty writing muscle – just let the words come to you naturally. With more practice, being funny can be easy. But don’t worry if at first the funnies don’t come; just keep on writing to get the joke engine going and eventually it will all fall into place.

#2 Let it go V2!
Wait, isn’t that the same as #1? Not if you read this differently as in let it go if the wit doesn’t come aka don’t force it! There are good days… and there are bad days when it comes to writing. If you are having the latter, no matter how hard you try, sometimes the wit just isn’t there. And that’s a good sign that you should just shut down and take a break until your flash of witty inspiration hits.

#3 See the funny in everything
To be funny, you need to know funny. To know funny, you should take life with a pinch of salt! If you’re all prim and proper, being witty might not be something you think of doing when writing. Or even if you want to, it might not come easily as it’s just not part of who you are. So start looking at the lighter side of things. Be a keen observer of the funny side of things. Having this approach to life will translate to your style of writing.

On that note too, know that being witty can also mean having to make fun of yourself or putting yourself out there. So unless you lighten up and take it easy, witty isn’t going to come easily.

#4 All about the details
People love to imagine things, being able to visualize what you are writing. So when writing, think of all the details and then bam! Hit them with the punchline! The thing about details is that they make for better writing; they allow the reader to really immerse themselves into what you are writing and in turn, you get a better reaction and your reader is able to relate more with the punchline.

#5 Humanise your writing
You could write in first person to do this, for example write about your own experience so it is more relatable and who better to tell a story about yourself but yourself, right? Or you could try to write in a conversational tone, like you would when speaking to a friend about something that happened to you today. Being too formal in your writing is going to suck the wit out of it but if you treat it like “storytelling”, chances are you are going to engage your reader more.

#6 Keep it short and snappy!
Nobody wants to read long, drawn-out copy that seems to go on and on and on…. One-liner punchlines work because it’s just that – a one-liner that is good enough to make you laugh. Know that super long IG captions that just talk about everything and anything but nothing? Now, how witty are those? Probably not very. If you find that you have to be lengthy to arrive at the punchline, the idea wasn’t very witty in the first place. Because when wit is done right, it can be done in just a few lines, or even a few words. So KISS – Keep It Short & Snappy!

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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