Admission, application and entrance essays: writing, editing, proofreading

Using Humor in your Application Essays

Wit is a sign of a sophisticated mind. The average undergraduate has trouble writing essays well and turning them in on time; they seldom have time to make sure their papers are actually interesting and entertaining. However, if you can write a high quality paper that causes your instructor to break out into guffaws and giggles, you can be certain you’ll earn a good grade. Furthermore, humor is a sign of advanced writing ability, so a funny paper may open up other career and academic doors for you.

But how does one write a humorous essay, particularly if the paper is for something high stakes such as a college application? It may be daunting, but it is fully possible. Follow the steps listed below to effectively insert humor into your application essays and other papers.

  1. Avoid using controversial humor. Do not poke fun at any marginalized group or any unfortunate, sensitive situation that might offend the reader or make them feel negatively.
  2. Do not use any terms that could be deemed insensitive or offensive. This includes crass language that might seem inappropriate. If you would not speak the word at a job interview, do not put it in an application essay.
  3. Do not steal jokes from the internet. In normal, everyday life it is acceptable to retell a joke you have heard, but in an academic paper, passing off old ideas as your own counts as plagiarism.
  4. Use irony. Make subtle, humorous points using language that shows the reader you are winking at them.
  5. If you think a joke will go over your reader’s head, do not take the risk of using it. If certain knowledge is necessary to get a joke, you should not use it. If your joke could be misinterpreted and taken in a non-humorous way, avoid it.
  6. Be careful about the use of satire. Only make a satirical or irony point if you are certain the reader will comprehend it and not misinterpret you.
  7. Turn to classical works of literature for pointers on writing humorously. Shakespeare’s plays are read in English classrooms all over the world, and make countless students, teachers, and theater goers laugh.
  8. Do not be crass or sexually explicit. It is not polite or professional to make explicit jokes or use “blue humor” in an essay, no matter how deftly you package it. Relatedly, avoid jokes about bodily functions.
  9. Do not put a joke in your paper if it does not serve a goal in the paper as a whole. Keep the paper tight and concise.

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