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Nuts and Bolts: Writing Funny Greeting Cards

September 18, 2013

Writing Funny Greeting Cards

Humor is a large category in the greeting card market. The public can’t get enough of funny greeting cards for almost any occasion. If you hit on a great joke, that design will keep selling and will become one of your regular earners.

Unfortunately, writing humor isn’t easy. The art of the joke can’t really be taught, but you can learn techniques which will help you bring the right image and the right text together to create a commercially appealing design that attracts customers.

There are a few subjects of humor that work in greeting cards. It’s pretty common to mix a couple of these subjects together (ie, age and insult).

  • Visual: A funny image, usually an illustration, but the right photograph works, too. The subject is usually exaggerated for effect and to maximize humor potential.
  • Age: Meaning jokes pertaining to the recipient’s age. For cards targeted toward an older recipient, there is usually an insult element (see below).
  • Gender: Meaning jokes pertaining to the recipient’s sex, or humor specific to men or women.
  • Insult (Slam): Making fun of or insulting the recipient in some way that isn’t offensive (stay away from racial and ethnic slurs, for example).
  • Pun or Word Play: Probably one of the most popular. See the example given at the top of this page to get an idea of word play.
  • Adult/Sexy: Naughtiness, tasteful nudity (think fig leaves), mild profanity. Adult  humor has no place on cards intended for children. Save that for the 18+ crowd.

Where to begin?

Start by familiarizing yourself with your chosen subject. For example, you’ve got a great close up photograph of a tortoise and you want to develop a humorous card incorporating age. If you’re scouting for ideas, first write down everything you can think about to describe a tortoise. Then think about how getting older feels. What can you find in common? Slow, wrinkled, toothless, hairless. There’s a starting place.

Now ask questions. Turn the concept on its head. Try it from different angles. In the tortoise case, can you think of any benefits to getting older? Here’s an example of a text combining age and gender: “As you get older, you’ll notice you have a lot more money to spend … since you won’t need those hair care products anymore!”

It doesn’t hurt to look at old standby jokes either. You can get great ideas for turning stale cliches into fresh funnies. Just keep in mind the recipient’s age. A child of five years old won’t really appreciate or get a joke that’s too sophisticated.

What you must keep in mind through the development stage is “sendability” which means … will a shopper be enticed to visualize signing their name and sending that card to the recipient? We’ve talked before about how greeting card designs stand in for the sender’s thoughts and feelings.

When you think you’ve got a workable idea, take these next steps:

  • Check for spelling and grammar issues.
  • Read the card aloud, not only to yourself, but try to get other opinions too. Does the joke flow well? Is the phrasing smooth or awkward?
  • If your joke is split between the outside (the set-up) and the inside (the punchline), does the split occur at a natural place? It should never feel forced.
  • Is the humorous emphasis in the right place?

Tweaking at this stage will bring long-term benefits since there are few things sadder than a joke falling flat. Once you have your design ready, let it sit a couple of days and return to give it a look with fresh eyes. You want to be certain the joke works the way you want it to.

When you’re creating the card, bear in mind:

  • Try to keep your color palette away from very sober colors like dark grays or gray-violets.
  • Find a font or fonts that match the mood of the card. For instance, on humorous cards, very formal script fonts are probably not your best choice (unless you’re making a deliberate point).
  • Certain categories don’t lend themselves to humor, like sympathy or condolence cards.
  • Follow GCU’s Submission Guidelines to lessen the chances of your card being Returned for Edits or Declines due to technical faults.

Now you know where to start in your quest to create funny greeting cards. The article below may help you if you’re looking for more information.

Nuts and Bolts: How to Write Greeting Card Verse

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 18, 2013 8:46 pm

    Thanks for the great tips, Corrie!

    In my humorous cards and stories, to get ideas I sometimes use the cartoonist’s trick of writing down various settings, objects, and characters (people, animals), and mixing these around, sort of like Mad Libs. Haven’t used photos much, but your post is motivating me to look at them for inspiration.

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