How to Write Short: Word craft for fast times, by Roy Peter Clark

My Copy: 9780316204323 (image from

I’ve browsed through this writing guide before, and if you get long-winded like I tend to get at times (go ahead and snicker, I’ll wait), then this is a great tool to read through. It’s got a few exercises to try, but isn’t a workbook. How to Write Short is a resource about different ways to look at getting your point across in short forms, and studying other short forms for ideas.

Clark’s book uses a fun sense of humor with examples about what to look for in yours and others’ writings and how to make it shorter. There is much to observe about writing out in the world, writing we may only glance at or not think much about, taking for granted that it’s there without reflecting. Short forms of writing that can say a lot beyond the famous Tweets are things like newspaper headlines, one-liners, book jacket blurbs, sales pitches, etc. With the amount of information vying for our attention every moment of the day, it  makes sense to learn how to grab attention as quickly as possible in the writing.

That said, this book is not ENTIRELY about getting your point across in as few words as possible, though I’m sure some readers will appreciate it. It’s also about using techniques to keep the reader hooked through short writing, like certain phrases, analogies, word choices, sentence structures that don’t let the reader’s eyes glaze over so easily. Short sentences help. And then there are the compound sentences, full of commas and lists of things to keep in mind with ups and downs and stirring quotations and elements. Plenty of options.

See what I did there? Huh?

How to Write Short is a good tool for students who need to write and generally hate to (the humor helps), but also the rambling writers who are so into getting the thought onto the page (or screen) that they don’t realize a reader is going to have a tough time getting their point. And sometimes our inner editor needs a bit of help remembering to make the writing concise and interesting, no matter who picks it up to see what you’ve done.

We all need a little help in being better understood, and this is a great writing assistant that’s not overly complex and is definitely not as long as other guides out there. If you know anyone who could use a bit of writing help, take a look through this one and see what it offers, even some of the (very short) chapter “grace notes” with ideas to try out, or real-world examples to collect or observe.

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