How to Make Your Own Mad Libs
What Are Mad Libs?
Mad Libs are a word replacement game. The concept was created in the 1950s, and has been a huge commercial success for its creators, Roger Price and Leonard Stern. Although the term is trademarked, it has passed into common use to refer to any funny fill-in story.
I was eight or nine years old the first time I ever tried Mad Libs. My friend and I laughed for at the pure silliness that resulted whenever we filled in the blanks. Today, the only thing that's different is that I now spend hours laughing with my kids (9 and 6 years old) instead of my childhood friend. I even do adult Mad Libs with my sister!
I'm going to show you how you can share in the fun and get started making Mad Libs of your own with just a few simple steps.
Perfect Occasions for Mad Libs
Mad Libs are great at keeping kids occupied and happy for 10–15 minutes at a time (or even longer, if your kids really get into it). Bring your homemade Mad Libs along or dash off a quick one while you're in these situations:
- before you get your food in a restaurant
- in the waiting room at the doctor's office
- on a road trip (have someone else write the words down if you're driving)
Mad Libs are also great at parties for older kids or adults. Prepare a few special themed stories for occasions such as:
- birthday parties (the silly story should feature the guest of honor, of course)
- bridal showers (adult-only plots about the wedding night or honeymoon can be hilarious)
- baby showers (try writing a Mad Libs birth scene!)
- holiday get-togethers (There are plenty of official Mad Libs books for Christmas, but if you want any for Thanksgiving or most non-Christian holidays, you'll have to write your own.)
Write a Short Text
The first step to making your own mad lib is writing a (very) short story. Your inspiration can come from anywhere: a holiday theme, a life cycle event such as a wedding or a birth, or even your everyday routine.
- Type the paragraph in a word processing program or handwrite it with pencil. (This will make it easier for you to erase words later.)
- Write a few sentences. Don't stress if they're not funny to start with; they will be when you play the game later on!
- Keep writing until you have between 100 and 200 words. It can be in one long paragraph, split into several short paragraphs, or even set as a list of bullet points.
- Add a title that reflects the subject of the text you wrote.
Parts of Speech Used in Mad Libs
If you're not sure about the parts of speech, take a moment to review the ones commonly used in Mad Libs. (This list is not comprehensive!)
- noun: a person, place, or thing (the President, living room, cup)
- adjective: a word that describes a noun (smelly, green, alive)
- verb: a word that shows an action (run, jump, play)
- adverb: a word that describes how you do an action (quickly, gracefully, badly)
- interjection: a short word or phrase that expresses emotion (Hey! Oh! WTF?!?)
Choose Words to Pull Out
Once your text is in good shape, you have to decide which words to pull out.
- Choose between one and three words to take out of each long sentence. Very short sentences can stay whole, but interjections are ideal to substitute.
- Make a note telling what part of speech fits under each word you erase, in case you forget.
- In some cases, you may want to further limit the scope of words allowed. For example, body parts, types of liquid, foods, and gendered names are very often specified instead of just asking for a noun.
- Reread your text once, saying "blank" instead of the original words that you erased. If funny ideas start to pop into your head, you'll know you've done it right.
How to Format Your Mad Libs
If you're simply dashing off a quick game to keep your kids busy in the restaurant while you're waiting for your food, you can't do better than pencil and paper. It's easily accessible, and the pencil's eraser makes pulling words out to leave blank spaces a snap. Remember to leave space between the lines for noting the parts of speech, though!
If you're preparing a personalized Mad Lib for a special occasion, you'll want it to look nice and be legible. Using your word processing program, write your story. Once it's finished, hit return twice at the end of each line, so you have a blank line of space between lines of text. Then highlight a word to erase, and replace it with a row of underscore marks. In the blank line below, tab over to a spot underneath the write-on line and type in the part of speech. Repeat this process for the whole story (it doesn't take as long as it sounds!). You may want to decrease the size of the font in the part of speech rows so they don't distract the reader. Save your file and print it, and you're ready to have a great time laughing with your friends.
Texts You Can Adapt for Mad Libs
As long as you are using your mad libs for only personal, non-commercial use, you can adapt copyrighted material. These are some great sources to use:
- song lyrics
- travel brochures
- excerpts from tv or movie scripts
- a paragraph from your favorite (or least favorite!) novel
Did your boss write a particularly asinine email today at work? Drop some words out and make it a Mad Lib with your coworkers (just don't let him find it!).
Mad Libs are everywhere, just waiting for you to pull out a few words and discover them!
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