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Humor on the Net

By Bob Osgoodby
Posted Sunday, January 16, 2005

Many people who send out promotional email, or have a publication such as an online newsletter, will ask if they should include 'humor". Well, there is no easy answer to this question.

Some will say that "humor" lightens things up a bit, and lets people know you have another side to your personality. They feel it is a refreshing break from the serious message you are delivering. Others say it is distracting and should never be used.

So where do you "draw the line"?

Humor can be used in two places. It can be within the body of the article or as a "stand alone" item.

Let's first examine "humor" within the body of the article. This can be the most risky. Unless you have a good sense of humor and good writing skills, you should probably avoid its use. Some of your readers will not have a sense of humor, and could easily take offense at what you say. Especially avoid sarcasm as people may think it is directed at them.

You should also avoid the use irony, where you use words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. Some will not recognize it as irony, and will think you are proposing what the words actually say. This can get you in a lot of trouble.

If you use "stand alone" humor, give it a title such as "Joke of the Day", which clearly separates it from your article. Once again, you have to be careful. Remember, your online publication is on the "world-wide web", and will be read by people who may have far different opinions of what is funny and what is not.

Things to avoid in all humor:

Never point your humor toward a specific group. What might be funny in a "one-to-one" situation where you know the person, could be highly offensive to someone else.

Never use vulgarity - especially the seven dirty words that George Carlin used in his comedy sketch - they are anathema! While adult jokes may indeed be humorous, they have no place in an online publication where you have no control over who sees it.

While vulgarity offends good taste or propriety, crudity, which shows a lack of tact or refinement, runs a close second. A word or phrase having a double meaning, especially when the second meaning is risqué, should also be avoided. A double entendre can actually spell double trouble.

So what kind of "humor" can you use?

This will, for the most part, be a judgement call on your part. A good criteria that could be useful, is to make believe your are talking to your local PTA, and want to tell a joke to put everyone at ease. The teachers are there as well as the parents and children of your child's classmates. If you can tell it there without embarrassing anyone, it is probably a good bet for you publication.

The best advice about the selection of humor, is that if there is any doubt in your mind at all, don't use it.

About the Author
Bob publishes the free weekly "Your Business" Newsletter Visit his Web Site at ( to subscribe, and place a Free Ad for your business.


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