HOW TO WRITE A LIMERICK
There was a young man of Japan
Whose limericks never would scan
When asked why this was
He said “It’s because
I always try to fit as many words into the last line as ever I possibly can”.
An extreme example perhaps, but writing good limericks is not as easy as it looks, and the scansion is the main pitfall. We generally know if we’ve resorted to a truly dodgy rhyme, but not everyone gets the rhythm straight away.
Limericks should be five lines long, rhyming AABBA – i.e. the first two lines rhyme, the next two lines rhyme, and the last line rhymes with the first. Edward Lear used the same word to end the first and last lines, but that’s a bit boring – essentially throwing the punchline away.
The first, second and fifth lines have three stressed syllables, and the third and fourth each have two.
So 1,2 and 5 go: –
3 and 4 go da-DUDder-da-DUM
So lines 1, 2 and 5 probably have eight or nine syllables, 3 and 4 probably have five or six – but this may vary, e.g. you may want to finish with a DUDdery: “There was an old fellow from Birmingham”. Point being that it’s not the number of syllables, it’s the number of stressed syllables, and where the stress falls.
Anyway, the whole thing should run something like:
(Finishing with a vaguely rude word is optional, but often helps!)