How to Use Comedy in UX Writing (Decision Tree)
July 18, 2019
As anyone who subscribes to the Daily UX Writing Challenge will tell you, I’m f*cking hilarious.
Wait, don’t leave!
Ok I’ll admit that I’m no Mel Brooks. But seriously, check this out, this is feedback from a user in response to the DUXW welcome email that I send to new subscribers:
God bless you, Greta. You have no idea how much I need(ed) your kind words.
Now, I’m not telling you this to brag about how funny I am.†
I’m telling you this because I’m a strong believer in the idea that if someone makes a “thing” and puts it on the Internet, then that person should at least have a basic understanding of what the “thing” they made is all about.
I myself built a “thing” which you can view below. It’s a “decision tree” diagram that a person can use as a quick reference tool to help decide when, and more importantly, when not to use comedy and humor when crafting UX copy.
But, who the hell am I, right?
Accordingly, I have shared the complimentary email so that you, dear reader, can view the below diagram knowing that someone on earth once thought that something I wrote was funny enough to make them, in their own words…
“not like, coffee-coming-out-of-my-nose laugh, but also not a half-hearted-chuckle.”
We good? Cool.
When it comes to comedy writing there’s a few golden rules to remember:
- Know the basic structure of what makes something funny. It helps to do the reading. Tracey Playle’s “You’re having a laugh: Engaging through giggles and guffaws” is required viewing if you want to throw jokes around inside the product. Likewise this post: “Humor in microcopy: 7 guidelines to do it right”, by Kinneret Yifrath is required reading.††
- Use comedy strictly in moderation. If you think you may have too many jokes in an experience, you’re right.
- Use Comedy ONLY when appropriate. Nothing is worse than trying to get a laugh out of someone when you’re telling them their flight has been cancelled, their file has been erased or a fire has broken out near their home.†††
Armed with these three tenets, you can now safely use the below paradigm for any instance where you might be considering writing a joke within a digital experience.
Also (affiliate link alert!) “Comedy Writing Secrets” by Mel Helitzer is a fantastic, though sometimes “dry” (ironic, no?) book about comedic structure and writing methods. Pick up a copy if you wanna dig into the topic of comedic structure a bit more. ††††
If you think I missed a step or that there’s more to add to this tree, send me an email! email@example.com Seriously. I am far from infallible. Call me out, we’ll probably become friends.
I included a small blurb about Comedy in UX Writing in my UX Writing Basics guide, but I got a lot of follow-up questions about it, and figured it was important enough that creating a quick diagram in Whimsical would not be a total waste of time.
Go get ‘em!