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Humor Writing: Making a Joke

by The Editor Company   


This business of writing jokes is serious. It is also profitable. Some there are that think it a waste of time to write jokes; personal experience has probably caused them to come to this conclusion. The fault with these is that they have not mastered the art; to them it looked too easy. Merely taking a "He" and a "She" and recording a few dozen words of inane conversation or views does not make a joke. And by a joke is meant one that is salable; the only kind worth consideration.

Getting an idea for a joke is a task as hard as getting a plot for a story. Reading jokes will often suggest others, but this method has its risk; one is liable to write too closely the lines of the jokes read. You can often get good jokes from the people you meet, but these may be jokes which they have read with the premeditated purpose of inflicting pain upon all whom they greet. Good joke-germs can be gleaned by observing life in its many phases. Conversations often contain little germs which can be easily worked into jokes. But you must have a "nose" for humor to discover them. If you haven't this quality in your makeup you had best leave joke-writing alone, for you will surely fail miserably.

As to length, a good joke never goes over two hundred words. From fifteen to two hundred words are the usual lengths. Anything over a hundred words, if written in story form, is properly an anecdote. Jokes of one hundred to two hundred words in length sell more readily than the shorter ones, and command a better price per word.

When you have written five or six good jokes, send them to the publication to which you think them best adapted. Be honest with yourself in determining this publication; you will save much time and postage thereby. A newspaper joke will never fit into a magazine. It is best to send out not more than six jokes under one cover, unless your work is known and appreciated by the editors. Otherwise, it will breed suspicion, and suspicion is only another word for rejection. How can an editor avoid suspecting that you are sending him a lot of matter which has been repeatedly rejected elsewhere, when he gets a bunch of twenty or thirty jokes at one time? Be business-like in your literary work, as much so in the little things as in the great.

Nearly every magazine and newspaper has its page or column of humorous matter. Careful study of the market will show you where your work is most liable to meet with acceptance. Your favorite newspaper probably often contains selections of the best jokes appearing in the various magazines and metropolitan newspapers. Clip these and paste them in a scrap-book. This is much cheaper than buying a copy of every magazine and newspaper that buys jokes, as your collection will grow larger and more varied each day. Refer to these jokes when you have a batch ready for the mill. Also remember that very few publications print the author's name in connection with his joke, and if you can get into these few regularly you are well on the road to prosperity and renown, for other editors will watch your work with interest. And once an editor becomes interested in your work you will in all probability hear from him.