joke association lists

How to Write Jokes – Association List

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joke association lists

In my previous article, How to Write Jokes – TopicI defined a topic and discussed how the jokes are in the details. In this article, How to Write Jokes – Association List, I’ll  show how to use a list to uncover all of the topic’s details to learn how to write jokes.

The function of the association list is to take a broad topic and help you explore and compile the details related to the context of your topic. When beginning students have difficulty learning how to write jokes, it’s usually because they’re attempting to find jokes within some broad, general category. As soon as they dig into details, they find a wealth of ideas for how to write jokes.

Let me define association list – a method to assemble related ideas and details.

Making lists has been a primary tool of how to write jokes for centuries. The more details you list, the more subjects you’ll have for joke premises. Also, when detailed information is fed into a comic mind – jokes emerge. So keep a pad and pen or an open screen available so you can jot down any jokes that pop into your head.

To write an effective association list, here are some guidelines:

• Use Categories
It’s helpful to explore the details by using some general categories. These categories give you a starting place to ask questions and find details. They can also help you when you get stuck, just pick a new category and explore by asking questions about it.

Here are some suggested categories:


• Choose Details Relevant to the Topic
The most effective association list is one filled with ideas and details directly related to your topic. For example, for the topic “my family” you could list, “air,” but that relates to almost everything, therefore it’s not germane. But “air” would be relevant for the topic of “balloons.” A relevant item will lead to other relevant details.

• Keep the Entries Concise
Most of the items should be one word, or at most a short phrase. The association list is a collection of details, not scenes or stories. Lengthy descriptions serve no purpose because the association list is about creating subjects for your joke premises.
For instance, the list below:

topic: my family
association list:

Father’s Day



sharing a bedroom


the sex discussion

• Not Too Big and Not Too Small
The quality of your association list will determine whether you have a viable topic or not.
If the topic is too big, then the association list will be filled with categories, rather than details. For instance, if you selected the topic “sports,” and then listed “football,” “baseball,” “hockey,” these items are categories of their own, not details. Therefore your topic is too big and you need to chunk down to one of the categories, like, “football,” and then make an association list for that topic.

Conversely, if your topic is too small, you’ll get a very short association list and you’ll need to select a broader topic to get a robust list of details. For instance, if your topic is, “computer cables,” and you can only think of a few items to put on your association list, then you’ll want to chunk up to a topic like “computers.” Then create an association list which will include “cables.”

A good association list should have at least twenty to thirty items. Since some lists can become quite long, at some point you must stop. But you can always add more items later. I know this seems kind of silly, but you’ll be amazed at the plethora of related ideas and details you’ll generate from an association list.

Now that you understand the topic and how to make an association list, you’ll want to know the next techniques for how to write jokes. In my next article, I’ll define and discuss, How to Write Jokes – Joke Premise Part 1.”

Learn how to write jokes,

Greg Dean

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