Puns! Some people think they’re pun-derful, while some people think they’re pun-ishingly bad. But what are puns? How do they work? And when should you use them in your writing?
Here, we run you through all the basics. And we’ll try to keep it pun-chy!
What Are Puns?
Puns – or, if you’re into fancy literary words, paronomasia – are a form of wordplay that draws on homophony (i.e. when two words sound similar despite having different meanings).
Many people use puns as punchlines in jokes, such as:
Why do thieves struggle with puns? Because they take things literally!
In this case, we have a pun on the phrase “take things literally” (i.e., to understand something as literal). Not all puns are so simple, though! For example, take this famous line from Shakespeare’s Richard III:
Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this sun of York
Did you spot the pun? The key word is “sun.” On one level, Shakespeare is using “sun” literally to evoke a “glorious summer.” But it also plays on “son,” with the “son of York” being Edward IV, leader of the Yorkist faction during the Wars of the Roses. A little more poetic than the “take things literally” joke!
When to Use Puns in Your Writing
So, should you use a pun in your writing?
In terms of context, puns aren’t typically suitable for formal writing (e.g., essays). Many people think they are silly, so they will seem out of place if you’re writing something serious. But in less formal writing – such as an email to a friend or a comic novel – puns can be great fun! They’re also common in light-hearted marketing messages and advertising.
And as we show with the Shakespeare quote above, puns even have a place in serious literature. It’s all a matter of creativity. Though that may not apply to most of the puns we’ve use in this blog post, which are rather daft.
Some Punny Examples
And to end this post, why not share a few of our favorite pun jokes?
Find this useful?
Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.
Q: Why did the soccer player refuse to accept any money?
A: He was only doing it for the kicks!
Q: Did you hear about the mathematician who feared negative numbers?
A: She would stop at nothing to avoid them!
Q: Why do cows have hooves instead of feet?
A: Because they lactose!
Q: What did Charles Dickens keep in his spice rack?
A: The best of thymes, and the worst of thymes.
Q: Why did the man fall down the well.
A: He had bad eyesight, so he couldn’t see that well.
And if you need anyone to check your writing – pun-filled or otherwise – our expert proofreaders are always happy to help!