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What's a Limerick

by Mel McIntyre

You might know that Limerick is a place in the Republic of Ireland. It lies on the River Shannon in the country's south west region. But you probably also know that a limerick is a nonsense verse.

Why should anyone want to write a limerick?

Well, in the first place, it's creative. It makes you think and stretches your brain a little. So that can't be bad.

Plus, it's a lot of fun. And fun is becoming a highly under-rated commodity these days.

So what are you waiting for? Make up your own limerick following these simple steps.

Step 1: Introduce your Subject

Who's it about?

Decide on the age and sex of your limerick's main character:

There was a young/old man/lady from...

Step 2: Describe the Location

Where does s/he live?

Pick the place carefully, as it will need to be a word you can find lots of rhymes for. 
I'm using Spain, so that gives me lots to choose from.

There was a young fellow from Spain...

Step 3: Rhyme Scheme

What rhymes with the name of the place?

Typically in a limerick, lines 1, 2 & 5 should rhyme with each other. When you've settled on your location, use a rhyming dictionary to come up with as many words that rhyme with it as possible.

For instance, I very quickly found the following: rain, pain, again, main, drain, stain, plain, Jane, sane, insane, remain, complain, etc. And that led me to this:

There was a young fellow from Spain

Whose left foot got caught in a drain

Step 4: Tell your Story

If necessary, use the words that rhyme with your location to develop a story that's amusing or unusual.

At this point it often helps to work out roughly at least what will happen in the last line. For example:

Will he complain? Go insane? Be in pain? Read on to find out.

Step 5: Internal rhyme

Lines 3 & 4 also rhyme, but usually only with each other. This helps add variety to your limerick and distracts the reader or listener from the ultimate conclusion.

Once you have a rough idea what the last line will be, you can work backwards and 'fill in the blanks' so to speak. Here's my choice:

Not sure what to do

He took off his shoe

Step 6: The Story's Resolution

Bring the story to a satisfying close. Remember that the fifth and final line should rhyme with the first and second lines, unless you purposely don't want them to.

Finally, put it all together, and you're done!

There was a young fellow from Spain 
Whose left foot got caught in a drain, 
Not sure what to do 
He took off his shoe 
And muttered a few words profane.

And that's all there is to it. The success (or failure) of your limerick depends to some extent on the time you're prepared to give to it. But whatever happens, try and have fun.

That is, after all, what it's supposed to be about.

Mel McIntyre is a freelance writer and author whose work includes articles, e-books, courses and children's books both on and offline. To find out more visit his site at

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