It's Okay to Add a Little Humor To Your Writing

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By on November 16, 2012 in Leadership with 1 Comment

Are your emails, presentations and other work documents a little lifeless?

It’s understandable. Most of us have learned in our careers to think of a well-written document as stilted, formal, humorless. And we’ve learned to write that way.

What a shame. Who says we should equate being professional with being boring?

Writing with a little humor reminds your readers that there’s a real person on the other end of the document. That can make a huge difference in how your readers judge both your written work and you.

As a young copywriter looking for clients, I often sent out a short pitch letter that ended with this message: “Want samples of my writing? Let me know. I can send you a few, a bunch, or enough to prop open your office door.”

Not the funniest thing you’ve ever read. Not even laugh-out-loud funny. But it served an important purpose: It humanized me for prospective clients. Several (okay, only two) hired me from this pitch letter alone. And many made a point of telling me that they enjoyed this last line. People don’t expect to find anything even remotely amusing in a document they read at work. It’s a nice surprise.

Of course, when adding humor to a professional document of any type (email, report, etc.), you need to keep in mind some important rules:

– No profanity.

– No offensive or off-color humor.

– No humor that makes the reader or anyone else (except yourself) the butt of the joke.

– Use humor sparingly. You’re writing a professional document, not a comedian’s monologue.

– Start serious. You earn the right to be amusing only after you’ve demonstrated your document’s seriousness.

Not sure whether a line you want to use is actually funny enough, or even appropriate, for the document you’re writing? Ask a friend or colleague. Then use your own best judgment.

And remember: You can be professional… and funny. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes. Would you prefer to read a document at work that nearly put you to sleep, or one that gave you the same information but also made you smile a few times?

© 2017 Robbie Hyman. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Robbie Hyman.

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About the Author

Robbie Hyman is a professional communications and public affairs writer. He has 15 years’ experience writing for nonprofits, small business and multibillion-dollar international organizations and is available as a freelance writer for federal agencies.

Robbie has written thousands of pages of content, including white papers, speeches, published articles, reports, manuals, newsletters, video scripts, advertisements, technical document and other materials. He is also co-founder of www.MoneySavvyTeen.com, an online course that teaches smart money habits to teenagers.

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