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.


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 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.


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!


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.

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.