Equipping Writers for Success
The Writing Life
The Writing Life
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by Nadia Ali
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Grasping the idea of a "punch-line" is not just a case of re-telling jokes or putting something funny in a line that relates to given topics requested by the greeting card companies. It is a line that leaves the editor smiling or chuckling to himself. It is something that will leave an impression and convince him to purchase your card.
An example of a punch line is, "Talk is cheap until you hire a lawyer."
It will not work if you have no idea of whom you are writing it for. So think of the audience you are writing for and then be creative.
The manner in which you phrase your words can make the difference between acceptance or rejection. Have a look at the example below that shows the difference it can make.
While this relates to the truth, it lacks a certain blow and there isn't enough expectation to make it punch. The same approach can be re-written to read:
This greeting has a definite punch and a sense of expectation as the reader opens the card to see what he's getting for his birthday.
The Shorter the Better
"The shorter the better," is still one of the requirements that reigns supreme in submitting punch lines to greeting card and slogan markets. Particularly when writing for slogan markets where the space for your knock out punch is limited to a key-chain, apron, mug, doormat or a T-shirt.
An example of an apron slogan is, "Lean, Mean Cuisine Machine." It is straight to the point and even in four words manages to hit with a knock out punch.
An example of a post-it note is, "People I hung up on when you were out." Again there is no rhyme, yet it is very effective.
Unless otherwise stated, most greeting card and slogan companies want sentiments that relate to the broader audience. By this they mean it must refer to any gender, any age and an idea that does not involve any risque or rude message. The above examples all fit into this category as they can both be for men or women of any age group, religion, ethic background and so on.
When asked to produce specific sentiments for defined categories. Always ensure your sentiment relates to just that. For example if you were asked to produce a humorous punch line for a friends anniversary you must relate to the friend and anniversary.
INSIDE: ...maybe you'd better start pulling the shades.
This humor relates to friends on a personal level and shows a specific type of punch -- one that you would send to your parents for their anniversary. So it has successfully met the criteria set down by the writers guidelines.
Humor To create a knock out punch line the key point is Humor. This is where the punch either breaks or makes. There are several ways to obtain the humor aspect. One can be by putting an element of surprise in your humor:
INSIDE: ...like Hawaii, Barbados, Jamaica
Or try an intentional misinterpretation:
INSIDE: ...Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise
Or a Universal truth:
INSIDE: And I will be picking on you again.
Always try to make a play on words, put a unique spin on a line and most of bear two questions in mind? Who would buy this? Who would think this is funny?
And lastly, spend some time in real greeting card stores researching what makes a card humorous and how the punch line is delivered.
It's amazing to see all the various ways that writers deliver a punch. Some include double meanings, twisted meanings, intentional misinterpretation, an unlikely turn of events, play on words or the use of an old cliché. Always bear in mind that a majority of greeting card companies do not want you to put the readers down or insult them in any way. Your humor must reflect something positive and have general appeal to a broad audience.
So get out there and hit them with a knock out punch-punch line! The greeting card and slogan markets are looking for writers who know how to write short, sweet and to the point. These three factors make up the components to a great punch-line, weave in some humor and you are on your way to producing a humorous greeting card verse or a slogan for badges, T-shirts or key-chains.
And for any of you who were wondering -- all of the above examples have already been purchased by various greeting card and slogan companies.
Nadia Ali began her writing career as an online greeting card writer and has had countless published since. She has also had success in the paper greeting card and slogan markets.