How to Become a Pun Master in Two Simple Steps

Reader Success Stories

  • Paris Vaughn

Jun 8, 2016

    Paris Vaughn Jun 8, 2016

    “It helped tremendously, especially the part about breathing. For me, breathing through my mouth, belly breathing is best. It helps me to relax my body and not be as tense. But because I always heard or was told to breath through my nose, I tried to do that, and ended up feeling short of breath and so tense. But breathing from my mouth in/out is way better. Also when it talks about keeping your hips straight and not twisting. That was really interesting and helpful.” …” more

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Some people may think they’re not made for running, but the truth is everyone can become a runner. In fact, you were probably a runner before you were two years old – running is a natural form of human movement.

As you become comfortable with running longer and faster, you should practice your technique to improve your running form and run more efficiently. With a good running technique, you’ll conserve energy, run faster and longer distances with less effort, and reduce your risk of injury.

To get great running form, consider these tips:

Relax your shoulders and hands, and allow your arms to swing by your sides.

  • Draw your shoulders back slightly and stand straight with great posture.
  • Keep your eye gaze forward and look ahead.
  • Let your foot land right under your hip, midfoot.
  • Move forward, not up and down.

Related: How to Achieve Proper Running Form

Nutrition and Hydration

You'll learn quickly that eating well and staying hydrated can influence your runs.

Proper Hydration

You lose water through sweat, whether it’s cold or hot out, so you need to drink before, during, and after your runs. When running, you should pay attention to your thirst level and drink when you feel thirsty.

In general, you may want to take in four to six ounces of fluid every 20 minutes during your runs. Runners running faster than eight-minute miles should drink six to eight ounces every 20 minutes.

If you don’t have access to water on your running routes, you’ll have to carry your own fluids with you. Check out some fluid carriers that you can use to hold your fluids while you run. However, if you’re running in a race, you shouldn’t have to carry your own fluids because there are likely water stops on the course.

During longer workouts (90 minutes or more), some of your fluid intake should include a sports drink (like Gatorade) to replace lost sodium and other minerals (electrolytes). The carbohydrates and electrolytes in the sports drink also help you absorb the fluids faster.

Staying adequately hydrated is important. In general, you can use the color of your urine as a guide. If your urine is dark yellow, you're likely dehydrated. Aim for urine that is a light yellow color, like lemonade.

Running Nutrition

What you eat before, during, and after a run has an effect on your performance and recovery.

Before a run, it’s best to eat something light that’s high in carbohydrates but low in fat, protein, and fiber. Aim to finish eating 90 to 120 minutes before you start running. Keep in mind, however, that every runner is different. Some runners can eat 30 to 60 minutes before a run and finish the workout comfortably. It may take some time to work out the best routine for you.

If you’re going to be running longer than 90 minutes, you’ll need to replace some of the energy you’re burning. A general rule of thumb is to consume 100 calories after an hour and another 100 calories every 45 minutes. Good food sources that are easy to carry and eat on the run include energy gels and chews, sports bars, or candy.

After a long run, to restore muscle glycogen (stored glucose), eat some carbs and protein within 30 minutes of finishing your run. A good ratio of carbs to protein is 3 to 1.

How to Run Properly Stage 4: Walk Before You Run

Starting a running practice can be daunting. 

Starting a running practice can be daunting. 

That’s why I actually recommend walking first. I mentioned earlier that walking can help build the foundation of a great running practice.

Once you’re comfortable moving a little bit,

Once you’re comfortable moving a little bit, an ideal way to actually start running is to alternate between a brisk walk and a jog. This can help you build up some strength so you can run at a more constant pace.

Try the following five steps to start your running practice:

  1. Get comfortable walking for 20 minutes. That’s it. Stroll around your neighborhood a few times a week, until this is a cake-walk.[7]
  2. Bump it up to 30 minutes. After 20 minutes is no problem, take it to the next level for a 30-minute walk. Once you can handle this fine, we can start picking up the pace.
  3. Start run/walking. Walk as you have been for 10 minutes. Then, pick up the pace for a light jog for a minute (or 30 seconds if this is too tough). Give yourself a couple more minutes of walking (or longer) before you start jogging again. Do this for about 10 minutes, then walk normally for the last 10 minutes. You’ll still come in at 30 minutes for your exercise.
  4. Now, run for longer. Once you’re comfortable holding a one-minute jog, let’s take it up a notch. We’ll still have you warm up for 10 minutes of walking, but when you jog, try going for a minute and a half. If this seems easy, go for 2 minutes! Alternate to a slower walk whenever you need to catch your breath.
  5. Before you know it, you will be a runner. As you expand your jogging time, lower the amount of time you walk. At this point, you’re basically running with some short walking breaks. Which is fine! This is how people start to run and many continue to alternate between walking and jogging forever. Even if you get to the point of running races, there’s nothing wrong with taking some walking breaks. You do you.

Alright, we’ve talked about technique, plus some tips for getting up and running.[8]

However, I know you’re gonna ask, so let’s talk about what kicks you should rock.

5. Progress Slowly

When you feel comfortable running 20 to 30 minutes at an easy pace (when your exertion level drops below 6, and you feel confident in taking it up a notch), then it’s time to increase the challenge. Your next step is to either extend your total workout time or the number of runs each week. But choose just one option at a time, Meyer says. For instance, you could aim to go for 30 minutes instead of 20. Or run four times a week instead of three. A very important rule of thumb: Increase your total weekly time or distance by no more than 10 percent from week to week. For example: If this week you ran 90 minutes total, you’ll run 99 next week. Or if you ran 10 miles total this week, you’ll run 11 total next week.

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It’s easy to overdo it on the days you feel good, or when you’re running with a faster friend. But doing too much too soon is a classic rookie mistake that can lead to injury and burnout. “When you’re first starting out, your goal should just be to have fun and [a few times per week],” says Glover. Once you’re running consistently, you can add days until you’re running five days a week or more.


Believe it or not, your running program should include more than just running. It's a good idea to mix other activities into your training regimen.

Cross-training helps to balance different muscle groups, prevent overuse injuries, and mix up your workout routine so that you don't get bored.

Cycling, swimming, deep water running, skating, or using an elliptical trainer are all complimentary aerobic exercises that will help you avoid getting burned out. Strength-training one to two times a week can also help with injury prevention.

Cross-Training Tips for Runners

How to pun?

Puns are a constrained problem set. Given a base word, there are a finite number target words and corresponding setups that can be created. Here are the steps to creating them.

1. Start with the base word:


Then, break the word into a set of syllables and sounds.

“Sal” “mon”

2. Then, tweak and morph the sound of each syllable. Substitute homophones or homonyms for each syllable. From this process, create a list of target words:

“sam, man”


“sell, men”

“sal, man”

“cell, men”

“cell, man”

“Siam, man”

3. Finally, pick a target word you like, then construct a sentence around it so that the phrase makes sense:

I’m glad they didn’t go with salmon (someone) else.

My stoner tax evading uncle said “I’m avoiding Uncle Salmon (Sam, man)."

I got so high that I broke out of my mental Salmon (cell, man)

Boom. Done.

From this deconstructed approach, you can see that there are a limited number of potential “target” words that can be derived from any given “base” word.

Here are some additional tips to keep in mind.

Look out for common suffixes and prefixes and leverage them

If the base word has “re”, “de”, “un”, “ing”, “anti”, “co”, “dis”, “ex”, “fore”, “mid”, etc. or other common sounds that can be a prefix or suffix, then an easy way to find a pun is to use them in your target word. Example:

It was before the light turned on. It was lamprey (lamp-pre).

The magician made the rabbit disa-piranha (disappear on a) whim.

Your target word can be a portmanteau

Nobody said that your target word had to be a real word! If your base word has syllables where each syllable can be a standalone word, exercise some creative freedom by using your setup to create a custom portmanteau. 

She had a circular band in her hair—it was a herring (hair ring)

I had a pail full of praise—it was a barracudas (barrel-kudos).

The key for custom portmanteaus is that the setup has to be comprehensive enough so that the audience understands how each syllable of your target word fits.f

Make up names, but sparingly

Got a tough sound in your target word that isn’t a real word? Have it be a friend’s name or make up a name completely. This is an easy and obvious way to get out of a bind. Note that using this will definitely both limit the potential hilarity and boost the groan-worthiness of your pun.

That American rock star’s lesser known female cousin is anchovy (Ann Jovi).

Watch out for single syllable words

They are easy, but no self-respecting punner would whip out any old rhyme. The target word has to have another phonetic similarity with the base word, aside from the fact that it rhymed. Does it start with the same letter? Or is there the same consonant cluster (i.e. two adjacent consonants like “br” or “sh”)? Or do they phonetically sound the same?

This is the pun of my breams (dreams).

Stick the pun at the end of the sentence

This is a generic comedy rule. Keeping the word to the end of the sentence will be more surprising and save the laughs for the end.

Salmon (someone) else told me.

I don’t know who did it, but it was salmon (someone).

Make your setup use the meanings of both the base and the target

If you want to elevate your pun into a joke that has standalone humor that is funny even outside the context of punning in a category, construct your setup so that it creates a scenario that hits the meanings of both the base and the target.

A fish from New Mexico is called an albacore-que (Albuquerque).

5 Different Types of Puns

Puns can be classified in different ways, depending on the intentional effect of the phrase. Puns can put similar-sounding words together, pair terms with similar meanings, or play on a word with multiple definitions. Here are five different types of puns:

  1. Homophonic pun. A homophonic pun uses paired homonyms: words that sound the same but have different meanings. For example: “Why is it so wet in England? Because many kings and queens have reigned there.” This pun interchanges the words “rained” and “reigned.”
  2. Compound pun. A compound pun contains more than one pun in the same sentence. For example: “Never scam in the jungle; cheetahs are always spotted.”
  3. Homographic pun. A homographic pun, also referred to as a heteronymic pun, plays on words that are spelled the same way but have a double meaning. Because these puns rely on spelling, they are visual and must be read to be understood. Here is an example of a homographic pun that transposes the word “flies”: “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”
  4. Visual pun. A visual pun, or a graphological pun, does not use phonetic writing. Visual puns can be achieved through imagery, graphics, or logos. An example of a visual pun would be an image of a fork in the middle of a street, a take on the common “fork in the road” metaphor.
  5. Recursive pun. A recursive pun is a two-part pun. One needs to recognize or understand the first part of the pun in order for the second part to make sense. For example, the pun “May the Fourth be with you” requires an understanding of the Star Wars movies and the phrase “May the force be with you,” as well as the knowledge that May 4 is Star Wars Day.

5 Tips for Making a Good Pun

Here are some tips for crafting winning puns in your writing.

  1. Understand the different types of puns. Familiarize yourself with how words and definitions can be paired to create puns. For example, pairing two words that sound the same but differ in meaning is known as a homographic pun.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the imperfections of the English language. Knowing confusing grammar rules and nonsensical spellings can help you generate puns. Misplaced punctuation and misspelled words can even be part of the humor. This pun, for example, is all about grammar humor: “The past, the present, and the future walk into a bar. It was tense!”
  3. Use free association to link terms with similar meanings together. Let your brain freely make connections between words and other thoughts and feelings. This exercise might help you find a humorous pairing of words.
  4. Increase your vocabulary. Take note of words and phrases that you hear, and think about what makes them humorous. Building your vocabulary can help you to create connections between words.
  5. Utilize a rhyming dictionary. A rhyming dictionary can be a helpful tool for discovering words for puns. If you have a word or phrase in mind for a pun, you can find other words to complete it.

Become a better writer with the MasterClass Annual Membership. Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by literary masters including Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Dan Brown, and more.

Tools To Help You Stay Inspired

A Training Log

A simple journal offers insight into how far you’ve come, what’s working, what’s not, and keeps you on track to meet your goals. Some items to consider recording: type of run (duration/miles/special workout); effort level; food and drink consumed before, during, and after; weather; and how you felt.

Running Partners

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends having an exercise partner because it improves the odds that you’ll stick with working out. Here’s why: Your run flies by when you’re talking with a friend, and knowing a partner is waiting for you is great motivation to leave the comfort of your chair.

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If you’ve ever taken a studio fitness class, then you know the powerful effect music can have on performance. “Certain types of music can help lower the perception of fatigue and enhance feelings of vigor and excitement,” says sports and exercise psychologist Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., psychologist at West London’s Brunel University. Just be sure to keep the volume low or opt for open-air earphones so you’re aware of your surroundings.


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