Wordplay contributes humor, creativity to writing

Jokes aside, the English language is a huge and diverse system containing over 170,000 words. With the language constantly adapting, that number only grows. In a language so large, word choice is incredibly important for authors as they write because words are able to evoke a range of feelings and emotions.

“Word choice and arrangement is foundational to good writing,” said Annie Lampman, a clinical assistant professor who teaches creative writing in the Honors College.

Sara Quenzer
Sara Quenzer, a junior double majoring in journalism and media production and English creative writing.

The giant alphabet soup that is the English language is something you can play around with until words take on the meaning you want.

As a budding procrastinator who usually only takes English courses because they are required of me, I found that wordplay was one of the few ways I could make my writing palatable.

“Look for the unusual,” Lampman said. “We have such rich wells of words to choose from. Choosing the first thing that comes to mind isn’t always the best choice.” ­

It will be difficult, if not impossible, to avoid writing in college, whether that comes in the form of a history paper or an English essay. It will certainly give many of us long, stressful nights filled with furious typing.

Since writing is inescapable, it makes sense we should strive to become better at it. One of the easier and more fun ways is to add humor through either wordplay or puns.

“Humor always has a place,” Lampman said.

Contrary to popular belief, this does include your essays and other such academic writing. But a word of warning: only use humor when it will add something to your writing, rather than for humor’s sake.

“Depending on who your audience is … I almost always prefer writing with humor,” said Sara Quenzer, a junior journalism and media production and creative writing double major.

If you know your professor specifically has a funny bone it may be a good idea to put a joke or two in there. Yet if this professor does not appreciate jokes, then it may be a good idea to save them for your friends.

Here’s another good joke. What’s the difference between a cat and a comma? A cat has claws at the end of its paws. A comma is a pause at the end of a clause.

Something like that may make you crack up while writing it, but it probably doesn’t have a place in your ten-page paper on Karl Marx. When using humor in your writing, make sure to use it sensibly so it enhances what you are trying to get across rather than makes it seem unprofessional.

“[Puns] are okay if they are done right,” Quenzer said. “I have never had a good reaction from making a pun.”

Getting a good reaction from a pun is a rarity. You sometimes get a nervous laugh or a tired groan. But don’t let this discourage you from letting out your funny side with words.

Getting the perfect pun or joke into your work is incredibly satisfying, but having all the words line up the way you want isn’t always easy.

It is important when trying to put wordplay or puns into your writing that you don’t get discouraged.

“Just keep writing,” Lampman said. “You can’t dwell on the feelings of not being good enough or not getting it quite right … Eventually you find your way through the thicket.”

As we write more we become better and better at making our writing funny at the appropriate times.

“It is way more bearable to write your essay if you let yourself joke a little bit,” Quenzer said.

Originally posted by Carson Holland for The Daily Evergreen