You’ve probably had at least one day where you slammed your laptop closed, huffed like the Big Bad Wolf, and said,
“F#$% it. I can’t write engaging, funny, warm copy. It just doesn’t come naturally to me.”
You probably thought that you’re just not like her:
Why would you even WANT to write funny?
Maybe you want your writing to be funnier because you know that humor is a shortcut to the Holy Grail of marketing: trust.
Maybe you’re just trying to mix it up a little bit because you’re tired of sounding like every other ho-hum copywriter or content creator out there.
But the idea of being funnier is hard for people who don’t feel
a constant need for validation like they’re naturally funny.
Fortunately, you can be (or appear) funny with a few techniques. And you don’t even have to compromise your personality or pretend to be someone you’re not.
Here’s how this will go: below you will find 10 sentence-level punchup techniques, with very brief descriptions for each. The full article also explains WHY use them, and tell you WHEN it’s appropriate (and not) to use each technique in your copy.
At the bottom, you can see the techniques in action.
So, step 0: Chill out a bit.
And now, the list.
Punchup #1: Write words in ALL CAPS
On most of the internet, writing in all caps indicates yelling or emphasis.
So anywhere you’re feeling ferocious in your copy, write a couple of those words in caps! DO IT! TRY IT AT LEAST ONCE!
Punchup #2: Punctuate “incorrectly” or include a typo (pick one)
The best place to punctuate incorrectly: Tweets, blog posts, and emails.
One study found that typos in email body copy amplified the perceived emotion of that body copy — so angry emails came across as angrier, and happy emails came across as even more joyful.
Now, I don’t advocate intentional typos more than once every EXTREMELY blue moon, because you have to demonstrate competence, too.
Punchup #3: Contract words and throw in some abbrevs
Contractions and abbreviations work on the same principle as mistakes, above.
Contractions show that you speak informally, while abbreviations signal to your audience that you just can’t wait to get to the point.
Both position you as a casual person. And both subtly show that you feel comfortable treating readers as friends.
Punchup #4: Chop up your sentences
Ah, sentence fragments. The bane of every grammar teacher’s existence.
Cutting sentences down so they start with words like “And,” “Because,” “But” and “Which” may not be grammatically correct, but it’s the way we talk.
Give each sentence one job. Or half of one.
Punchup #5: Ask + answer questions
Asking questions and then immediately answering them in your copy helps you accomplish two goals:
– It helps keep you from overlooking anything your reader might be wondering about
– It creates a conversational flow and helps you draw more attention where you need it
Punchup #6: Choose comic book words
Words for fighting moves are excellent replacements for boring verbs in your calls to action (like “submit,” “subscribe,” etc.).
“Send my ebook now” could become “Dropkick that ebook into my inbox”
Punchup #7: Throw in puns and portmanteaux
Now, this right here is the type of humor that most people have in mind when they say “I’m not funny.”
The truth is that anyone can come up with puns.
And anyone can come up with portmanteaux — you know, the thing where you squish two words into one, like “bran” and “banana” into “branana,” which sounds like a horrible new protein bar.
Want to get started working out your pun muscles? Next time you think of a dad joke, MAKE IT. Out loud. Then revel in the groans.
Punchup #8: Give asides in parentheticals, italics, or quote marks
You can crack a joke, spell out what you’re thinking or what the reader is thinking, or hold imaginary debates.
Asides immediately make your writing more lively. They can also make the reader feel like they’re in on a secret.
Punchup #9: Trail off with ellipses
Would you believe…
That trailing off with an ellipsis (or as some people call them, “tri-periods”) adds drama and anticipation to your copy?
Playing with punctuation allows you to dictate where your reader will pause, so you can create an intentional cadence.
Also, lines ending in ellipses are often shorter, which makes them a breath of fresh air for a visually fatigued reader.
Punchup #10: “Misspeak” using strikethrough
This is one of my favorite techniques, and you’ve
probably definitely already noticed it above.
It’s a fun way to make a joke in just a couple of words without distracting the reader.
BONUS Punchup #11: Include emoji and GIFs
Along with breaking up copy to save readers from visual fatigue, GIFs can take your jokes to a new place. They help illustrate concepts succinctly — and obviously, they’re entertaining!
See these techniques in action
Here’s a paragraph swiped from an email the other day.
Example 1 original copy
Stop charging by the hour.
If you’re charging hourly prices for the work you’re doing for clients, you’re putting a cap on your earnings, you’re doing your clients a disservice, and you’re building the wrong kind of career.
When you bill hourly, you are putting yourself in a position where you are incentivized to take as long as possible to deliver the results that your client is trying to buy.
After all, why would you spend any time or energy trying to figure out how you could fulfill this contract in half the time, thereby cutting your pay in half?
So it’s not so much that you will intentionally ignore ways to optimize the process, but that you won’t be harnessing your mind in that direction.
Now, this copy is solid. It makes sense. But it’s a snoozefest, personality-wise.
To punch it up, I’d pick and choose from the techniques above, and…tada:
Example 1 revised copy
HOLD UP. Stop charging by the hour.
Just stop. Right now.
If you’re charging hourly prices for the work you’re doing for clients, you’re putting a cap on your earnings (and not the cute kind of cap, like a baby would wear to a ballgame).
You’re doing your clients a disservice, and you’re building the wrong kind of career. Sorry to break the bad news there, guy.
When you bill hourly, you put yourself in a position where taking as long as possible to deliver results = rewarding yourself for inefficiency with a big fat cookie, I mean paycheck.
Which means you probs won’t spend any time or energy trying to figure out how you could fulfill this contract in half the time. Since that would slash your pay in half.
So you won’t intentionally IGNORE ways to optimize the process, but you def won’t be focusing on getting harder, better, faster, stronger.
Punchup techniques used
– All caps
– Asides (italics and parentheticals)
– Asking and answering questions
So one last thing: Don’t go crazy with these tips.
Pick the techniques that feel easiest or within reach for you. Then try them in a low-pressure situation (like an unpromoted social media post, non-sales-related email to your list, or best yet: in a post on your own blog).
Then sit back and see what happens! Based on experience, people will perk up and take notice.
10 Easy-As-Pie Punchups for Warmer, Funnier, More Personable Copy