OWL writers doing their thing.

How to write a Limerick

Limericks! We’ve all seen them. Scrawled on the bathroom wall, spray-painted on buildings, and even written in dust on my rear windshield. That one was written in loopy, finger-width letters that wiggled in the end. We can only assume the generous author had collapsed into giggles.

There once was a car, colored gray
That never felt soap, sponge nor spray
This tale’s not all true,
For this car was bright blue
but it’s not had a bath to this day.

This window witticism inspired me to write my own limericks on the windows of other people’s cars. The joy I have taken in this finger-dusting pastime must be spread to the public. Read the following instructions to delight and torture your friends and enemies respectively.

BRAINSTORM

Think of a theme. What do you want your limerick to be about? Is this for a greeting card, note to a friend, or just for kicks? If it’s for a friend, I suggest writing one about them.

Example: This limerick is for Bob, so I will write a limerick about Bob.

CHOOSE WISELY

Choose a word, which has many other words that rhyme well with it. Don’t pick orange! Nothing rhymes with orange! Try to get words that have something to do with your subject.

Example: guy, try, buy, fly, cry

Write as many words down as you can that rhyme with this word. If you have trouble with this, try a rhyming dictionary.

FINESSE

Before we move on, I want to lay out the poem structure for those who are new to writing limericks. The average limerick uses this formula:
A,A,B,B,A. This means that the lines A rhyme with each other, same with B. A typical limerick will have 8 syllables for A, and 6 for B. Here is a classic limerick:

A flea and a fly in a flue
were stuck so what could they do?
Said the flea, “let us fly”
Said the fly, “let us flee”
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.

You can see how the syllables aren’t exactly 8 and 6, but the meter and rhythm still sounds great. Just repeat it to yourself a few times and make adjustments as necessary. This is your poem, so you write it how you want it!

COMPLETION

Now that you have a theme and a word that rhymes, let’s put them together!

Sometimes, if you have a subject, and words that rhyme to match the subject, the story will write itself.

Example:
Bob is an unusual guy
there is nothing that he wouldn’t try
he’d eat bugs and spiders
ride bikes and hang-gliders,
so his insurance rates are quite high.

I think Bob will like it! Try it yourself.

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