Moss, is humor writer from Tennessee. She writes a
weekly human interest column about daily life and the funny
things that happen to everyone.
She has written for the Daily News of Kingsport, Griffin Journal,
Oakridge Now, Atlanta Woman Magazine, Aberdeen Examiner, Angleton
Advocate, and Smyrna AM, a supplement of the Murfreesboro Daily News
Journal. She has been
published by Voyageur Press, McGraw Hill, and the good folks
at Guidepost Books. Her articles have appeared in
numerous anthologies and other publications, both in print and online.
She is a
former board member and past Editor of the Columnists.com, website of the National Society of Newspaper
oldest and largest professional organization
for columnists. She is the Web Editor of
Humorists.com and a founder of the Southern Humorists writers'
organization. She is writer, editor, and webmaster of HumorColumnist.com.
To carry her weekly column in your
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Online Since 1999
||On Writing Humor...
On Writing Humor
I've received a number of inquiries from high school students about
how to write humor. I only seem to receive such fan mail
when it is time for term papers. I've concluded that a high school
teacher somewhere is way too busy grading papers or is insane,
letting students write a humor columnist for advice.
Since no teenager would be caught dead reading the newspaper and
"Dear Abby" gets too much mail anyhow, the kids probably
Googled "humor columnist" and I had the good fortune, or
misfortune, to come up first on the list, making me their
automatic favorite. The other way to become a favorite with
teenagers is to loan them your car keys.
The most important thing for teens to remember about writing is
that you have to know how to read first. Fortunately,
libraries are becoming obsolete and teens have computer labs where
they can pretend to be doing research while actually browsing hot
pictures of other teens on MySpace. If they find an
interesting picture, they can then practice reading by browsing
posts, which will say something like, "What R U doing? OMG, R
U 2 bored 2?"
The second thing to remember is that to be a writer you have to
write. While this seems obvious, it is amazing how many people
don't get it. Write every day about something, about
anything. Don't worry about whether you can write well; just
write. Blogging has recently become popular on the net, so there
are many places to practice not being able to write. Numerous
examples of writers who can't write can be found on websites like
Blogger and WordPress.
The next thing is to learn how to spell and use punctuation.
Nothing is as distracting to a reader as grammatical errors, poor
spelling, and lack of punctuation. Fortunately for the
average teen, word processing programs have an amazing feature
called "spell check." which has improved term paper
grades by at least one letter and decreased the market value of
red pencils. Unfortunately, computers are stupid when it comes to
things like word play and literary devices; therefore, students
will still be unable to sleep in class.
While we are on the topic, there is another wonderful feature on
most word processing programs called a "thesaurus".
The thesaurus used to be a top-secret reference manual known only
to creative writing teachers and the CIA, but now that they are on
computers, everyone can use them. If you find yourself using the
same adjectives over and over, such as, "I met a cool guy at
a cool party," try replacing some of your cool adjectives
with other cool words.
Tone, unlike a ringtone, is not something to download on your cell
phone. The language of a piece conveys the tone or attitude of the
narrator. I am sometimes asked, "What makes you funny?"
Or alternately, "What makes you think you are funny?"
When you write frequently and creatively, you develop a style of
your own that is an extension of your individual personality. You
can read other writers for inspiration, or just drink beer like
other teens, but don't try to write just like someone else.
There are many literary devices that writers use. Humor
writers often use "hyperbole" or exaggeration to create
effect. Humor writers are given more "creative
license" with truth than other journalists; however,
exaggerations in journalistic writing should always be obvious and
not an attempt to fool the reader.
If the dog hasn't eaten your English book, study similes,
metaphors, personification and those other repugnant literary
devices that your teacher probably went over the day you cut
class. Conclusions are especially important in humor writing. An
unexpected ending can be just like the punch line is to a comedian
and leave your reader with a smile.
Keep your articles short and concise. Editors often believe
that if you can't say it in 650 words, it doesn't need to be said.
With that advice in mind, the rest of this article doesn't need to
Copyright 2006 Sheila Moss
Nashville, TN 37219
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