Groupon’s Style Guide to Humor Writing

Groupon is a deal-of-the-day subscription service that’s been getting attention for its power to sell anything from yoga classes to Flip cams incredibly quickly. The site takes half of the revenue from each sale, but sellers are willing to do it because the surge in publicity and cash flow is worth it. Think of it as kind of like Priceline, but for stuff you might want to buy.

Greg T. Spielberg wrote a piece in August on Nieman Lab about what a boon it has been for magazine and newspaper subscriptions: “Since early June, 31 different titles have attracted some 32,851 new subscribers. (And that’s just among magazines; newspapers — the Chicago Tribune and Washington Post among them — have also been dipping their toes into Groupon.)” Joe Pompeo on Business Insider last week announced the most successful Groupon-enabled subscription deal to date, 7,088 subscriptions to Time Out Chicago in twenty-four hours. (Those who signed up got 51 issues for $8, normally costing $20.)

Part of Groupon’s appeal might be their snappy write-ups of their products, that make pretty much everything sound appealing. ($59 microdermabrasion treatment? I don’t even know what that is, but thanks to that humorous Scooby-Doo reference in the opening line, yes please!) And now, thanks to this job ad for a Groupon staff writer, we know just how seriously they take this stuff. According to number seven, I could never get this job. (I love parentheses, and calling out jokes I’ve made!)

Eight Groupon Style Essentials To Get You Started

1. Include all of the information you feel separates this business from any of its competitors.

2. Focus on describing this as a great experience, not a great deal.

3. Avoid marketing clichés such as:

-Got X problem? This deal is your answer!

-exclamation points

-slogans, branding language from the featured business’s website

-broad, unsubstantiated claims (superlatives, etc.)

4. Adopt a neutral 3rd person tone.

5. For humor, use absurd, unexpected imagery that reacts to actual details.

6. Avoid humor that relies on pop culture, topical, or celebrity references.

7. Avoid calling out humor with devices such as quotes, parentheses, and adding language that draws attention to the joke.

8. Shoot for 80% informative content and 20% creative content.

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Lauren Kirchner is a freelance writer covering digital security for CJR. Find her on Twitter at @lkirchner