Using Humor in College Essays


While fellow peers may be more than amused by the class clown antics you utilize, it is important to remember that your college essays are serious. They can seriously affect your GPA which can, in turn, seriously affect your ability to graduate with your degree. On the bright side, using humor in your college essays might actually be beneficial.

Consider your professor’s position. Given the number of students in a college course, that is a lot of essays to read. Your professor probably gets really bored reading the same redundant repetition of research. No doubt, the boring style and tone of most college essays has the ability to put your professors to sleep. So, if you want them to enjoy your work, and thereby earn a better grade, some humor can lighten their loads.

Keep in mind that your essays are serious so you don’t want to inundate them with one-liners or inordinate amounts of jokes. Instead, you want to cleverly craft a line here and there that is guaranteed to put a smirk or grin on your oh-too-serious professor’s face. This takes skill though because the cunning insertion of humor has to still be applicable to the piece at hand. So, here are some things to consider when including humor in your college essays:

Type of Humor

You could consider poking a little fun at the topic you are writing about. Now, you should not write anything that demeans the topic or takes the negative aspects too far. Your professor obviously finds value in whatever he/she has assigned you to write about, so you don’t want to insult him/her while reading the essay. Be careful, then, about how far you take the fun.

In fact, the best advice we can offer is to make your joke short and subtle. Make sure you stay on task. You might want to rely more on a coincidental anecdote. Something that only someone who knows the topic well would be familiar with, or some way in which your topic can apply to real life. Whatever the case is, just be sure you are not going for a stand-up comedian award. You don’t want your professor cracking up and losing sight of all the work you put in your research. You simply want a little light heartedness.

Make it Flow

There is the distinct chance that your professor is completely devoid of any sense of humor at all. So, if that’s the case, no matter how amazing your humor and style is, that professor just isn’t going to get it or appreciate it. That’s ok though, so long as your well-turned phrase still works within the confines of your essay.

If you are pushing too hard to slip a joke in, chances are it will backfire. Your devotion to being funny will surpass your desire to complete a well composed piece and that will cost you in the grade department. Feel free to employ humor, not too much, and not in a way that seems forced. The smirk in the paragraph needs to come from an organic position that makes sense in the overall theme and topic.

Consider the Topic

We are all about taking the opportunity to get a grin out of your sour-faced professors. However, we also recognize the fact that there are moments in which that just isn’t appropriate. You will definitely need to consider the topic you are writing about.

If it is something seemingly mundane or simply factual, you might be able to slip in some amusing one-liners. But, if you are writing about a sensitive topic, a controversial topic, or an overall truly serious one, please avoid the humor. You don’t want to offend your professor because that can definitely wreak havoc on your grade.

Other Advice

Understand that some level of skill is required when it comes to including humor in a college essay. There must be tact and proper placement. You will need to know when it’s ok to employ a laugh and when it should be wholly avoided. So, here are some tidbits of other advice that will help you write a really good essay while making the professor crack a smile at the same time:

  • Controversial humor is strictly forbidden. Do not poke fun at anyone or any topic that has the potential for stirring up wrath.
  • Avoid the crass language. College is your preparation to the professional life you are hoping to acquire. So, if you wouldn’t use the joke or a word in an interview, do not include it in your paper either.
  • Plagiarism applies to jokes too. In everyday conversation it’s normal to retell a joke but if you steal someone else’s funny, and include it in your paper, it is likely to be considered plagiarism. If you can’t be funny on your own, then don’t try.
  • Irony is king. Subtle nuances of humor found in irony can give the reader the sense that you have shared a secret joke with them; you have given them a nod or a wink. People like that.
  • Consider the joke’s comprehension. While your professors are more than likely quite bright, there is a chance that they may not get your references. If you think your joke will go over a professor’s head, don’t use it. The same goes for those that you think can be misinterpreted. Avoid them.
  • Satire is cool but dangerous. While you might have no problem understanding your own meaning, there is always the chance that your professor comes from a completely different schema. Be careful what you say.
  • Get help. Some of the great literary classics can show you how best to turn a phrase. People like Shakespeare really got the value of sarcasm and how to poke fun in a less than obvious manner. His works can always earn a smile.

Remember, your ultimate goal is to get a good grade on your academic paper. If you can include humor in the  college level essay then that’s all the better!

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