Seriously: How Business Writers Can Take a Cue from Comedy

A few years ago, I co-founded an all-female comedy group called The Bosom Friends (Comedy that gives you a lift!) to write and perform in Chicago.

Lately, my comedy writing has taken a backseat to co-founding Funbully, a communications agency that helps brands grow by telling their stories across many types of media.

However, I’ve found that the rules of comedy writing remain front and center.

Whether I’m crafting brand messaging or pitching stories to reporters, every day I apply the lessons I’ve learned writing comedy to business writing.

Here are five ways you can apply the rules of comedy writing to your line of work.

1. Learn the rules before you start to break them.

One of the first things comedy writers learn is 5-point scene structure, which is the structural outline of many comedic scenes, taking characters through an introduction, several turning points and a conclusion. Much of comedy is trying something new and crazy but even the wildest ideas benefit from an understanding of the basics to make them work. The same applies to your business or industry. First, familiarize yourself with the rules as they apply to you and your brand or company (ie: AP Style, a stylized brand voice, the format of social media posts, etc.) so when you do break the rules, it’s deliberate and not simply a mistake.

2. Create compelling characters and tell interesting stories.

Jokes are important but they aren’t the bones of good comedy writing. Bold characters and compelling stories carry the jokes, which are interspersed throughout. Tell compelling stories and supplement them with research, product information, marketing lingo and other necessary data to hold the attention of your audience.

3. Focus on the game.

Comedic scenes revolve around what we call “the game” of the scene, or the repetitive rising action that heightens characters to a boiling point. The funniest scenes have a very clear game without a ton of distracting, extraneous information that confuses the point of the scene. Make your point and lose the rest. If you don’t know what the point is, figure it out before you write a bunch of nonsense just to fill space. Consumers are already overloaded with content across tons of platforms so be strategic and make yours count.

4. Don’t be sloppy.

A scene will be way less funny if the actors are stumbling through typos and errors in a script. After you write something, take a few minutes to re-read it from start to finish. This simple step will save you lots of embarrassment. (For example, I rewrote that sentence more than six times and also spelled the word ‘sentence’ wrong initially.)

5. Remember the rule of threes.

Jokes come in threes. After that, they generally stop being funny. I apply this to all sorts of business writing from the number of times I follow-up with someone to how much information to include before an audience gets overwhelmed. Examples: write three-sentence paragraphs, use three adjectives to describe a product or person, or put only three things in a list.

*This article was originally posted on LinkedIn.