I don’t mean to say that what you write has to be funny. Although, God knows we could use some humor sometimes! But jokes have the basic ingredients you need to make people want to read what you write, and then, to remember what they’ve read.
Jokes invite the audience in.
Whether it’s “knock-knock,” or “What did the one say to the other?”, or “A priest, a minister, and rabbi walk into a bar,” jokes get the listeners involved. You can see them lean forward, wondering what comes next.
The next time you write a fundraising appeal, look for the opening line that makes your reader want to read the next line.
Jokes have a structure.
Human beings like to know where they’re going and how long it’s going to take to get there. People waiting for a bus or subway are much more content to wait if they see a sign that says “Next train to Alewife Station, 10 minutes.” When they’re listening to a joke and they hear that something happens three times, for instance, they know something unusual is about to occur and they’re waiting to find out what it is.
The next time you write, look for the structure that tells your reader when the main idea is going to arrive.
Jokes have a punch line.
Sometimes people even forget how the story went, but they remember “That’s what she said,” or “I’ll have what she’s having.” It’s the payoff. It leads to a reaction: laughter, or a groan, or both…but an emotional response.
The next time you write, figure out the response you want to provoke first. Then, tell the story that will elicit that response from your readers.
A priest, a minister, and a rabbi went into a bar, and the bartender said, “What is this, some kind of a joke?”
I’ll bet you remember that one.