Book Review: How to Write Short

I’m tempted to write a six word book review for this one. But Roy Peter Clark’s How to Write Short (Word Craft for Fast Times) is worth more than just ¬†few words, even if I break from some of the very suggestions Clark lays out concisely and with humor in this book about writing in the modern age of short texts.

Clark, a newspaper man who works with journalists and others on the craft of writing, covers quite a bit of ground here, giving very specific advice and mentor texts about the art of writing short, using everything from Tweets, to photo captions, to six word memoirs, to marginalia, to listing, texting and more. He is also a talented writer.

His premise is that a good writer can pack a mighty punch in just a few words, if one is careful with their word choices and sentence creations. He also notes that we live in a world where updates and short texts are coming to rule how we get and share information, and having a working knowledge of this kind of writing is a key part of being literate. Of course, Clark also warns that writing short has its pitfalls, of losing depth to brevity, and the lack of nuance. A writer has be a good writer, even if the text is small.

Clark ends each (short, of course) chapter with some helpful “Grace Notes” that offers ways for the reader to become a writer in the form or format or genre that he has been discussing, and I found these a great source of ideas for writing activities. In short (ahem), How to Write Short is a powerful advice guide, with wit and humor (although there is a bit too much of Clark talking about his friends and networks and he almost works a bit too hard to show off his charm in his own writing) that will get you thinking of how to write and how to teach writing.

The book reminded me of this Ignite piece that I presented at NCTE a few years ago, on this very topic (here, I fall into what I criticized Clark about — showing off. Sorry.):

Peace (yep),


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