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: –

da-DUDder-da-DUDder-da DUM




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:

da-DUDder-da-DUDder-da DUM

da-BUDder-da-RUDder-da YUM




(Finishing with a vaguely rude word is optional, but often helps!)


2 Responses to How to Write a Limerick

  1. Pingback: Limerick Competition – Win ‘There Was an Old Geezer Called Caesar’! | twitmericks

  2. Pingback: Prize Limerick Competition | twitmericks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s