This may be a controversial statement, but I hate puns. I don’t know what there is to like about these cheesy, exaggerated and corny plays on words. Unfortunately, puns are a common occurrence and topic of discussion around the ClearVoice office (and I know I’m not going to stop hearing puns after everyone reads this article). In fact, my coworker Milton inspired me to write this blog post after he discovered this article about paying to use other people’s toilets. It is so full of puns that I could barely get through it without straining my eyes from all the eye rolling. With the constant references to “poo pourri” and a “pee-ramid scheme,” I could barely make it to the end of the article.
So what is it that I hate about puns? They are forced — forced to be an effective play on words and forced to get you to laugh. If you have to lean in, raise your eyebrows and scoop your voice just for people to get the joke, then it’s not funny.
I’m not the only one who feels this way, either. Charlie Hopper, writing for McSweeney’s, states, “A pun is rarely funny. Sometimes it forces you to laugh grimly along with it, but that’s not humor. That’s force of personality.” A simple search on Google also results in a long line of psychological studies of why people hate puns, forums dedicated to hating on puns and, worst of all, list after list of pun-lovers trying to get the haters to laugh at their puns.
Especially as a content marketer, you should never use puns. And I do mean never. Why? I’m glad you asked.
Puns are a waste of time
If you spend more time cramming puns into your content than you do on the content itself, you are doing your readers a disservice. In the article about building a business around using other people’s toilets, I was so distracted by the forced plays on words that I barely gave the idea a chance. Instead, I clicked out of the article and proceeded to tell my coworkers how painful it was to read. The point of the article was not received, making it a waste of time for Airpnp (the brand), the New York Post and me.
Hopper agrees with me. As he explains, “A pun sidetracks you. It’s your friend who won’t let you get anything done. It doesn’t know how to further the conversation. It can’t help you figure out anything important… A pun distracts you from being profound. Or helpful. Or insightful.”
Unlike irony, sarcasm or other forms of humor, puns go no further than the play on words. They don’t give readers a deeper understanding, they don’t make a point and they don’t help your message as a brand.
There are better options
There are so many other funnier, smarter and more sophisticated options. Just look at classic works of satire, such as “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift or humorous articles from The Onion. These pieces are often hilarious and make brilliant points about society, business, religion, philosophy, politics and whatever else is being discussed.
Instead of telling your readers you are an egg-spert on omelets (stopppp it, please), use the omelet as a funny metaphor for life (think the cookie metaphor from “Bruce Almighty”) or to explain why readers should eat eggs instead of chicken. Whatever your preferred form of satire, please, please, please don’t lower your standards by using a pun.
Puns are the worst
This point speaks for itself. No matter your argument, puns are the worst.