Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer
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Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  1,341 ratings  ·  161 reviews
One of America's most influential writing teachers offers a toolbox from which writers of all kinds can draw practical inspiration.

"Writing is a craft you can learn," says Roy Peter Clark. "You need tools, not rules." His book distills decades of experience into 50 tools that will help any writer become more fluent and effective.

WRITING TOOLS covers everything from the mo...more
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Published January 10th 2008 by Little, Brown and Company (first published September 1st 2006)
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Jaycruz Cruz
Before Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer became an actual book, the tools were a series of blog posts Roy Peter Clark wrote over at Poynter.org. The version I've read were those original 50 blog posts collected in PDF form. You can find all the original collected posts here and if you want to you can download the PDF from my Dropbox folder here.

From what you can see on the actual book's table of contents there are some differences from the the names of the tools and how it...more
morning Os
I am an international student who had never been surrounded by native English speakers until the age of 22. I ended up studying humanities in an American phd program. Imagine how stressful writing is for someone like me. I have been struggling to acquire the instinct and intuition you guys have when you judge "good" and "bad" writings. This book is helping me a lot understand, step by step, what constitutes good English sentences, paragraphs and chapters. The examples are brilliant. They not onl...more
An outstanding book for anyone who writes or wants to be a writer. I attended two seminars put on by the author at the Tucson Festival of Books, and new immediately I had to have this book.

It's broken down into four parts...Nuts and Bolts; Special Effects; Blueprints; and Useful Habits. From the 4 subtitles, you can see it goes beyond just good grammar and proper usage. It is designed to not only help your writing, but improve your writing habits and give you new ways to think about your writing...more
Clark's book is about more about style than content or correctness. And the 50 strategies are so practical, readable, entertaining, and genuinely helpful that writing with “style” becomes just as substantial and reachable a goal as writing good content with correctness.

That's fantastic. The book gets the fifth star, though, for its outstanding structure/organization. Clark has built this book like a fractal image: Its pattern and value is the same from far as from near, and it’ll make you a bett...more
Every so often in life you come across something that makes you pause and think, "Okay, this is really something. This is how it's done." Sometimes it's a movie, like The Matrix with all it's dazzling special effects, stylish art, and mysterious story. Sometimes it's a new technique like the Fosbury Flop at the 1968 Olympics, stealing the show and changing how everyone does the high jump from then on. Sometimes it's whatever you call it when you release a seminal rock album like Sgt. Pepper's an...more
Obaada Elhomsy

In general it's a good book, which provides writers with effective and useful tools. However, the most thing I disliked is the excess of quoting and exampling, that really irked me in some parts, and spoiled the whole meaning.

Lets try to sum up the essential topics and themes:

1- Begin sentences with subjects and verbs ( make meaning early, then let weaker elements branch to the right)

2-Order words for emphasis (place strong words at the beginning and at the end)

3-Be passive-aggressive (use pass...more
What is the book about?
"Think of writing as carpentry, and consider this book your toolbox. You can borrow a writing tool at any time"

Cool. How should I use these tools?
"Do not try to apply these tools all at once"

What's the best tool of them all?
"The most powerful tool on your workbench is oral reading"

So these tools will make me sound smarter?
"The writer cannot make something clear until the difficult subject is clear in the writer's head. Then, and only then, does she reach into the writer'
Rebecca Graf
If you are a writer or even a want to be writer, chances are you still can learn something new. If you’re like me, you can learn a lot of new things to help your writing. One great way is to read what other successful writers have learned over the years. I’ve gotten several books over the last few months and Roy Peter Clarks’ Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer is a resource that might just help you.

This is not a book that holds your hand and walks you through steps. Each cha...more
Julie L
This book is essential reading for every beginning writer. Roy Clark provides the writer fifty tools with which to improve her craft. The chapters are short, informative, and funny and written in a style to illustrate a particular tool. He also provides brief exercises at the end of each chapter—not just writing, but cool exercises like observing people—to spur your thinking or to help increase your understanding.

The passage that resonated with me was his advice to not implement everything in t...more
The book does what its title suggests, meticulously presents all the tactics that are often used by professional and savvy writers. With a succinct and informative table of contents, this book can serve as a dictionary of writing, readers can locate what tactics they are interested in, explore it without reading the book cover to cover ( although the book is good enough for you to do so). Introducing from the basic knowledge of sentence structure to the board field of writers' habits, the author...more
It's a nice mix of nuts-and-bolts and practical writing techniques, all distilled into neat, 3-5 page chapters, each devoted to a "tool." In each short chapter, Clark provides excerpts from stories, novels, essays, newspaper and magazine articles as examples. Then he ends each chapter with three or four "workshop" ideas to practice that writing tool. Some tools will be familiar to anyone who reads about writing or teaches it (e.g. "Activate your verbs," "Prefer the simple over the technical," an...more
I love to read, and I love to write. I especially love to read about writing.

On my way back from a hockey game in Wilkes-Barre one night, I stopped for gas. On top of the gas pump I was using, sat this book. It was in rough shape - wet, discolored, etc. If it had been a book about anything else, I leave it right where it was. But since it was about writing, I took it home.

And I'm glad I did.

This book is on par with Strunk & White, "On Writing", and "Bird by Bird", as far as instructional wri...more
Writer Ace
Most writing books fall short in terms of actually ANALYZING techniques used by different writers to make their prose sing. This one picks off technique after technique, showing examples and giving exercises to try with each. It's the first writing book I've ever seen identify a technique I first noticed in Scott Russell Sanders' work--mucking with the third element in a parallel series of three on purpose. While he didn't use any of Sanders' work, he did show examples of it at play in other wr...more
Well-structured and educational, with good points and interesting anecdotes.

Worth picking up!
I saw Roy Peter Clark speak at Teachers College last year during a professional development day focused on helping my students advance as writers. Although I walked away with a lot of fantastic ideas for my classroom, I was equally inspired as a writer myself to "raise the level" of my own writing. His book, Writing Tools, is fantastic and I would recommend it for any writer, but particularly for those in the midst of revision. It feels a little silly to put it on my "read" shelf, as I will cont...more
David Williams
I came to this book via Roy's audio programmes on iTunes U (which are also excellent, and free to download). I had never heard of him before, but was so impressed by the extracts that I bought the book - which is even better. Very accessible, yet not at all superficial, each tool is illustrated by hit-the-mark examples. A practical guide that will improve any writer's work, at any level or genre - I know it has improved mine. Highly recommended.

Reviewer David Williams has a regular writer's blo...more
Peter N.
I really enjoyed this book. Clark gives the writer a toolbox of ideas that range from how to arrange sentences to foreshadowing to working with an editor. All the chapters are short with questions at the end to spur further thought. He arranges the material well so the reader can easily reference a portion of the book later. He demystifies the writing process, as well. The reader leaves believing that he can write well if he takes the time and uses the right tools. Writing tools is an excellent...more
Aspen Junge
Clark is a long-time teacher of journalism, and in Writing Tools he gives a distillation of advice for writers of all experience and skill levels. I actually read this book backwards, beginning with the last section, "Useful Habits," because maintaining a daily writing habit is one of my current challenges.

I did not expect much that I hadn't read in other books on writing ("Put your but in a chair." "Just write." "Never use adverbs or passive voice.") and was pleasantly surprised. Each writing...more
Eric Smith
I enjoy books about writing and this is one of the best I've ever read. It takes writing and breaks it down into 50 lessons, or strategies, and that provides a really useful and instructive way to demystify the writing process. Each of the 50 lessons is short, 3 to 4 pages, and hard hitting and well written. If you care about writing - and I do, but I write mostly for work - then I can't say enough good things about this book.
I like how easy to dip in and out of this book. I read it a few chapters every now and again for a few months. It was easy to read, and had some good stories hidden inside. The advice made sense and was easy to follow.

I don't however find myself referring back to it. It's more of a read it and leave it on the shelf rather than have it on the writing desk sort of book.
Roy Peter Clark is a master teacher, and some of his best lessons are in this book. Most any aspiring writer has something to gain from Roy's tools. The only reason I'm giving this writing advice book five stars is that at times the text feels a bit derivative. And too often, the examples included are not exactly stellar prose.
Mar 15, 2014 Courtney rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Aspiring/Novice Writers
Recommended to Courtney by: Required
I read this in a class with John Cox, a fairly well-known reporter from the Tampa Bay Times. He knows Roy Peter Clark personally, and I would say that most Florida journalists have heard of him.

I enjoyed most of this book, especially Clark's examples of good writing. However, I would guess that most professional writers or moderately experienced writers probably understand most of his tools intuitively. The most helpful section of the book, for me, was about good writing practices -- like limit...more
If you already have a good handle on the basics of structure, grammar and etc some parts of this book will not be terribly helpful, but it's a good little book for those who are just starting out with their writing.
This book delivers on its claim of providing writing tools. It is organized into four parts: Nuts and Bolts; Special Effects; Blueprints; and Useful Habits. The first part is quite concrete. For example, it admonishes careful use of the passive voice. But what is unusual about it is that it goes further to explain when use of the passive voice is powerful. (It's when you want to emphasize the victim.)

Each of the parts becomes increasingly abstract. For each tool, it provides great examples from...more
Letforståelige, brugbare skriveråd. Hvert kapitel indeholder desuden flere øvelser, man kan kaste sig over, for at afprøve rådene.
Ray Charbonneau
One of the best ways to procrastinate is to read about writing, instead of actually writing.
Mars Dorian
One of the best writing books I've ever read.


It's jampacked with gems ranging from word choice to philosophical approach. The short chapters (usually 3-4 pages) make it a perfect read in bite-sized sessions.


I've read a lot of writing-how-to's in the last two years (about twenty-eight), and the fact I'm still learning so much from this book means something.

If you want to improve the craft of your writing, whether it's fiction, non-fiction, journalism or poetry, get this b...more
Be prepared to be inspired to write. This isn't a sit-back kind of book.

Each of the 50 writing essays is beautifully written. Roy Peter Clark uses examples from literature to show what great writing is -- so get ready for your appetite to read to be whetted over and over again.

But the best thing about this book: every essay ends with instructions to make your writing better right away. Instead of leaving you with the impression of the gap between the masters' craft and your own skill, it whips...more
This book surprised me.

I wasn't expecting much when I picked it up. Maybe some basic tools of trade, the same things I've read again and again in other books on the art of writing. This gave more.

1. It DOES give the basics, but not in a dull, "I've read this a million times from everywhere else" type way. His writing has a way of speaking directly to the reader, pulling you in close, like an arm around your shoulders, guiding the way.

2. It's not all about fiction, not all about nonfiction. Every...more
"You need tools, not rules." This book is broken into four main parts, but I found that only the last one, "Useful Habits," contained actual tools. The rest, to me, anyway, seemed to be the "rules" that writers are told over and over re-phrased.

Was this book useful? Absolutely. Is it the only book I'll keep to help with my writing? Absolutely not.
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By many accounts, Roy Peter Clark is America’s writing coach, a teacher devoted to creating a nation of writers. A Google search on his name reveals an astonishing web of influence, not just in the United States, but also around the world. His work has erased many boundaries. A Ph.D. in medieval literature, he is widely considered one of the most influential writing teachers in the rough-and-tumbl...more
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“Everyone should read, we say, but we act as if only those with special talent should write.” 5 likes
“As you listen to political speech, notice those occasions when politicians and other leaders use the passive voice to avoid responsibility for problems and mistakes.” 0 likes
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