How to Write a Pun
Puns are not too difficult to write on their own – all you have to do is come up with a pair of homophones (or near-homophones) and write a setup that somehow stitches them together. Alternatively, you can think of a word that sounds like a full sentence, as in the “I’ll ask her / Alaska” joke. This is often very easy with place names, which can have a unique, funny sound easily translated into a slightly off-sounding sentence. For example:
- Mumbai (“mum buy”)
- Singapore (“singer poor”)
- Jamaica (“d’ya make her?”)
- Des Moines (“the mines”)
When to Use Puns
Many people consider puns annoying, especially in formal writing. As a result, it’s best to use them sparingly. Think of it in terms of tone: a pun sets a very jokey, silly tone to your writing — all the more so if there are numerous puns rather than just a few. So before you include a pun, ask yourself whether silliness is the appropriate tone for the piece you’re writing.
However, that doesn’t mean that you can never use a pun in a formal essay. Some professors appreciate a humorous title, or a little lightheartedness here and there. The title is a fairly harmless place to put a pun, since the title makes very little difference for your essay as a whole. Alternatively, you might put a quick pun in the conclusion paragraph. At that point, you have already laid out the entire arc of the paper, and hopefully made your argument successfully. Thus, you have “earned” the right to loosen up your tone a little. The structure of a paper is a bit like a job interview — right at first, you want to show that you are serious and committed; at the end, once you’ve established a rapport with your interviewer and things are going well, you may choose to lighten up a bit and crack a few jokes.