Adding Humor When You’re Not Funny

Like most of my peers, I went into this project with a little too much confidence. The New Yorker, I thought. It’ll be easy, I thought.

Real Housewives

Wrong. Soooooooo wrong.

Not only do the staff writers for The New Yorker have an insane personal dictionary, they’re also funny. Prior to beginning this project, I wasn’t anticipating having to include humor in my repurposing project. This aspect of the new genre in a new style is both enjoyable and extremely challenging for me. In my opinion, adding comedy (in my case, attempting to add comedy) to a written piece heightens the vulnerability of the writer. Since humor varies from individual to individual, it is increasingly difficult for a writer to ensure that their joke is understood–even more so that it is understood in the way it was intended. What I have noticed as I wrote my draft is that I might think a certain phrase is funny because I tend to have a more sarcastic tone. However, sarcasm is tough to detect in the written form because it requires a certain understanding of context and an awareness of the reader’s background or experience.

The articles themselves are more like short essays. These essays have forced me to adjust my sentence style to a more compound-complex structure. From the articles I have looked as a model, personal experience as well as whimsy are critical to crafting a memorable argument. Each author, while having a unique voice, allows readers to daydream and draw out themes that challenge and excite them.

Each piece also exudes an air of coolness that has been difficult for me to emulate. The diction and sentence structure of each piece appears so effortlessly composed, as if they sat in a coffee shop and cranked out the piece in 30 minutes with minimal error. While I know this probably is not the case, and I definitely won’t be doing that for my final draft, it makes me think about how important it is for a piece to be appear sophisticated and put together even if it was created without a strict plan put in place. A way in which I hope to improve my piece will be through refining my sentence structures and adding words that both reveal my love of language and surprise my readers. However, I do not want my piece to appear as if I spent an hour looking through my thesaurus, picking out difficult sounding words, and then sprinkling them into my project. Each word, like the words used in The New Yorker, must serve an explicit purpose. A balance will need to be struck between making my article chic but not to the point where my reader cannot understand my argument.


My goals moving forward will be to get my entire argument and all of my ideas on the page before going in and adding new words. I want to make sure that my argument is solid before I go in and make finishing touches because I think, at the end of the day, a piece is only as successful as the argument it makes. The revision process won’t be easy, but I’m looking forward to seeing how far I can push myself.

Caroline Rafferty

Caroline is a Lauren Conrad aficionado with more clothes than sense. Currently suffering with a severe case of wanderlust and wondering why more people don't like jicama, Caroline is an extremely gifted napper who is a Communications major. Between reading "Into The Gloss" and listening to her "rbf" Spotify playlist, Caroline writes about anything that comes to mind. Anything.

2 thoughts to “Adding Humor When You’re Not Funny”

  1. Oh my god, same. I realized while writing my draft that sentence structure and diction were hard to focus on when I wasn’t even sure if my argument was effective or compelling. I often feel this desperation, even with journal writing, to get it all down on the page. I feel that way with this piece. I want so badly for people to understand!

    I think its interesting you talked about humor, because I feel like goal setting and success is the antithesis for that. It is very sad and depressing, at least as a college student.

    But I can relate to your experience with the New Yorker. I started reading this piece in the Atlantic and realized that perhaps I was being way too ambitious. But then again their pieces are well researched. Like well! On a level I cannot even fathom at this time. Sometimes I wonder if they just sit down and write with authority even if they have doubts, because the pieces feel so confident in whatever approach or choices the are making. Is it a fake it till you make it thing?

  2. Caroline: As it turns out, sarcasm is indeed incredibly difficult to detect through the written word, that I could not agree with more. That being said, the context of the article or essay is key, in terms of how humor is conveyed and received by a given reader. I have had a great deal of difficulty being comfortable with humor in my own writing, and I would love nothing more in my writing than to add this style to my own skill set.

    Your strategy on taking the time, after completing and putting all of your thoughts down on paper, to go back and add new vocabulary makes a lot of sense, given the fact that the ideas you are presenting strongly outweigh the specific set of vocabulary you choose to convey your messages. Your love of language shines through in your repurposing argument draft, and the interviews themselves should be a fantastic tool to continue to build on your ability to strike a chord with your readers!

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