Poetry Writing

How To Write A Limerick

Nidhi Nangia
By Nidhi Nangia. Updated: December 15, 2017
How To Write A Limerick

A limerick is a humorous poem of 5 lines, featuring short, funny and rhyming lines. Its bouncy rhythm makes it easier to understand and memorize. It is a funny and well-known form of poetry, often recited to a group for humorous effect. Its exact origins are not known, but it has been assumed to come from the poets of Limerick City in Ireland. It is more likely an English poetical tradition, but it can be fun in any language (even Latin[1]). As a general rule, a limerick is 5 lines long, has a funny and distinctive rhythm, with rhyming 1st, 2nd and 5th lines. The 3rd and 4th lines form a shorter rhymed couplet. Read this oneHOWTO article to understand how to write a limerick.

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  1. Rules of Writing a Limerick
  2. Steps to Write a Limerick
  3. Finalizing the Limerick

Rules of Writing a Limerick

Reading and writing a limerick poem can be fun. It is often funny and humorous, sometimes bawdy or even mean-spirited. Once you learn how to write a limerick, you can write it your own way and decide how dirty you want to make it. There are some scholars who argue that a true limerick has to be filthy, but the reams of PG rated limericks published over the years would suggest otherwise.

The form element may seem restrictive, but it is really just a template for fun. It means you can put your main focus on being creative with the story of the limerick. Here are some rules that you need to follow while writing a limerick:

  • It is made up of 5 lines
  • It has a rhyme scheme of aabba
  • Line 1, 2 and 5 rhyme with each other, and lines 3 and 4 rhyme with each other
  • Sometimes, lines 1 and 5 have same word in the end, and rhyme with line 2
  • First 1st, 2nd and 5th lines have 8 beats, while 3rd and 4th have 6

Here is an example of a limerick:

I was riding my horse one day

When he suddenly stopped on the way

Along came a car

My horse went far

Really far, far away

A limerick is also sometimes termed as ‘nonsense’ poem, probably because it tells a humorous and blunt story with vulgar or quirky words that often do not make any sense, like in the example above. You may even create your own words, as far as they deliver the meaning you want to imply. The first line of your limerick you will write should establish the setting or character of your poem, giving an idea about what the poem is going to be about.

Music also plays an important role in a limerick, as it should have a bouncy tone when you read it aloud. Many nursery rhymes, including the famous ‘Hickory Dickory dock’ are written as limericks, because they have a bouncy rhythm that makes them easy to read and learn by kids. Remember, writing a limerick is not like writing a research paper, they are designed to be fun. The more

How To Write A Limerick - Rules of Writing a Limerick

Steps to Write a Limerick

Creating a limerick require a little bit of drafting and brainstorming. Follow these steps to write a limerick the right way:

1. Select your subject: Before you start writing, you need to come up with an idea first. Think about an entertaining or funny event that you can write a story about. Limericks are often related to a moment or situation, no matter how silly, ridiculous and nonsensical it may seem. Do you remember a moment which made you giggle or laugh even for a second? Did you recently attend a wedding party and something funny happened at it? Do you remember a funny event at a birthday party you attended in your childhood? Think about that moment and select your subject. The more open your imagination, the better.

2. Write the first line: The first line of your limerick can contain a person’s name as its subject and then create a silly thing which happened to said person. For instance, ‘Once, I had a horse named Pirate’. Other than the name, focus on the name of a city, country or town, and use it as the subject of your limerick’s first line. For instance, ‘It happened in a city named Tampa’. Then use an event that happened in that place. It can be interesting to use ‘what if’ scenarios in your limericks also. For instance, ‘What if I could go to heaven?’. Once you choose such a scenario, explore how you may feel spending a vacation in heaven.

3. Identify the required rhythm: Find examples of limericks over the Internet or in poetry anthologies and go through them. Try to read them aloud in order to get an idea of their rhyme scheme and rhythm pattern.

  • While a limerick has 5 lines, its 1st, 2nd and 5th lines should rhyme, and the 3rd and 4th lines should create a rhyming couplet.
  • Once you have chosen your rhyming words, you need to follow a particular syllable scheme as well. In this scheme, the 1st, 2nd and 5th lines should have 8-9 syllables, and 3rd and 4th lines should have 5-6 syllables.
  • Apart from that, your limerick should follow a meter, which means that each line should have a particular number of stressed syllables or beats. If we use ‘da’ for an unstressed syllable and a ‘dum’ for a stressed syllable, each line should have the following meter scheme in each line:

1st line: da dum da da dum da da dum

2nd line: da dum da da dum da da dum

3rd line: da dum da da dum

4th line: da dum da da dum

5th line: da dum da da dum da da dum

  • While you are composing the lines of your limerick, read them aloud to yourself and ensure that you are putting stress on the right words at the right places.

4. Create a draft: In order to make your first draft, follow these instructions:

  • Establish the primary character of your limerick within the first line itself. It is going to be a very short poem of 5 lines only, so you have to let your thoughts flow very fast as you write. The first line should convey the subject of the poem, whether it is about a person, place or event. Mention the name or gender of the character. Establish the 8-9 syllable pattern within the first line as well.
  • Use single syllable words with rhyming pattern. Select rhyming words that are related to your main character or subject of your story. One syllable words make it easier to follow the desired syllable count in each line. Once you choose your words, build a story around them.
  • Once you have selected your main character and chosen your words, describe your character doing something really strange or funny. Try to include strong verbs which can convey a sense of action and urgency. The action that you describe should be funny enough to make your reader giggle.
  • Give a problem which your main character has to resolve or overcome. 3rd and 4th lines are the best places to let your character address that problem. The problem can be anything from another person, animal or issue. If your character gets an injury, select an obstacle that appears strange and ridiculous.
  • End the draft with a resolution or realization. The last line should overcome the obstacle or resolve the problem that you introduced into your limerick earlier. Your main character may realize something suddenly and decides to overcome it in the end. Sometimes, the character may do something ridiculous or funny to resolve the issue or get out of a situation.

Finalizing the Limerick

Once you are satisfied with the story of your limerick, and its rhyme and syllable count, write it out either normally or with the syllables divided. After you write it, read it aloud and ensure that you have put emphasis on the stressed syllables the right way. Clapping on the stressed syllables can ensure that they are present at the right places in each line. Also make sure that you have followed the right rhyme scheme, and finally check your limerick for any spelling, punctuation and grammar errors.

Show your limerick to your friends and family members, ask them to read it and give their honest feedback. Do they feel that it flows well and has the right rhythm when they read it aloud? A giggle while reading it is a good sign of success. Be open to receive feedback from your readers, and work towards improving it. Finally, give a nice title to your limerick using the subject or its main character.

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How To Write A Limerick