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How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  880 ratings  ·  154 reviews
America's most influential writing teacher offers an engaging and practical guide to effective short-form writing.

In How to Write Short, Roy Peter Clark turns his attention to the art of painting a thousand pictures with just a few words. Short forms of writing have always existed-from ship logs and telegrams to prayers and haikus. But in this ever-changing Internet age,
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published August 27th 2013 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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 ·  880 ratings  ·  154 reviews

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Emma Sea
Oct 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Notice; write; edit
Crafted tiny word sculptures
Entice the reader

Barnabas Piper
May 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book did less to help to show how to write short and more to direct what made short writing effective. It was like a grammar textbook for short writing. I can't imagine someone reading this and coming away better at concise, clever, clear, crafted writing. It was not a horrifically written book, just not very helpful.
Initial reaction: Great read. I was impressed with the way Clark broke down the advantages to writing short and taking inspiration from shorter forms of text in order to improve one's writing. Some of these cues I've already incorporated in my own writing without realizing it, but it also gave me pointers as to how to think better using those skills.

Full review:

I'll admit that I haven't read that many guides to economizing writing in the contemporary spectrum, but Roy Peter Clark does a fine job
Jul 25, 2014 rated it did not like it
Every time I encountered the writings of Isaiah while growing up, it seemed like the teacher would do his or her utmost to "explain and interpret" what those dense verses meant. I would scribble down my notes as fast as I could, desperate to remember what the translation was because there was no way I would be able to look at what was written and come up with what they were telling me.

Not to be discouraged, I took a class in college entirely on Isaiah and his writings. The teacher took a differ
Cianna Sunshine & Mountains Book Reviews

Grade: A+

This is an enlightening read. It’s quick, it’s easy to read and it really changes your outlook on 140 characters or less, and how that can affect writing in all forms. Writing short can actually enhance your ability to write long.

I loved it, from the perspective of someone who deals in Marketing and Blogging and social media all day, this book has been an invaluable tool. It has insight along with explanation, as well as support. Everything is condensed in this small little book.
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
I'm a big fan of Writing Tools, which I pick up again and again. This book has a narrower focus, but feels less crisp and helpful. Most chapters take a general point (some of which are Writing Tools repeats) and bury it under examples.

While examples are often a great way to drive home these types of lessons, the sheer number of them here feels tedious and annoying. It's almost as if the author isn't quite sure we'll grasp his simple suggestions without a few sets of bullet-pointed quotations. I'
May 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Pretty good. Has advice for every type of writing, though some were not for me.
Stef Smulders
Jul 30, 2019 rated it liked it
First part is interesting, second part not much. Best advice: write short text using concrete nouns followed by vigorous active transitive verbs. Then the text tells the reader who does what to whom and that is what the reader wants to know.
Nov 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
Roy Peter Clark puts his money where his mouth is by keeping How to Write Short brief – only 239 pages sans index and bibliography. The chapters, all titled with clipped imperatives, are only 5-7 pages, the last of which is dedicated to a Grace Notes section that offers prompts and practices based on the chapter’s contents for the reader who’s really serious about becoming the writer. Clark’s instructions for writing short aren’t that different from instructions for writing of any kind – collect ...more
Harper Curtis
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an awesome book. Read Clark's close reading of Tom Petty's "Free Falling" here:

Then read the whole book closely.
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-writing
Gorgeously written (duh...) but advice is somewhat repetitive of earlier ‘Writing Tools’.

Strongly recommended!
Nadya Tsech
I started the book with the wrong expectations. It's not a guide on how to write shorts; It's more the analyses of short writing with lots of examples.

Most of the examples are from the American culture; I didn't know them and couldn't appreciate the significance of these texts (especially references to Super Bowl).
Andrew Blok
Aug 09, 2017 rated it liked it
A job posting I responded to said they liked applicants who had read this book. While the job has long been filled by someone other than me, I read the book anyway.

Roy Peter Clark is widely respected as a writing coach and writer. Here he adapts his instruction for a world in which to write and capture a person's attention often means to write short. He covers everything from tweets to headlines to specific strategies to general concepts and ends each chapter with some helpful final thoughts. Th
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Another book that should have been a pamphlet, with numerous shirt sections covering all the bases from early composition and rhetoric classes. It represents a good return to these topics, with interesting if cheesy examples, but it tilled little new ground for me and the second half felt needlessly duplicative; if you've made it through half unconvinced of the merit of short writing, I hardly think the books conceit has worked, for you or the author.
Allie Vera
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Pretty solid advice, though it ironically dragged on a bit for me (likely because a lot of Clark's points were previously drilled into me in writing workshops). Still a good pick for aspiring writers. 3.5 stars rounded up.
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Loved it!

Review to come...
Ayat Al Bloushi
Many redundant information; the irony.
Mar 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
This is rubbish. Complete rubbish!
Jul 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Writers of all kinds
I received this book as a part of a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

As Blaise Pascal said, “I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter." The ability to express one's thoughts in few words can be difficult for even the best writers. Some seem to think that a sentence is no good unless it is a full paragraph and contains at least one word that will stump the average reader. Thankfully we seem to be moving toward a consensus that what can be said in five
Sara Diane
I got this as a pre-read for NetGalley, and I figured, I'm a writer, this is going to be great.

Well, for a book about how to write "short," this book was never-ending. It's 50,000 words (so the author tells us at the end). Most times, I felt like the author was beating a dead horse with a very big stick.

Don't get me wrong, there was some great information in here. There are some good examples of short writing, and if you are looking to learn the art of short writing, this book can help you. But
W. Whalin
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
To communicate with power and a few words is a valuable skill. Journalist and writing instructor Roy Peter Clark has served the writing community with HOW TO WRITE SHORT ( I enjoyed this book and believe if you apply the teaching; it will improve your writing.

As Clark writes in the opening pages,"I've written HOW TO WRITE SHORT because I could not find another book quite like it and because in the digital age, short writing is king. We need more good short writing--the ki
Antoinette Perez
I took a writing class and realized how inflated my writing can be, even after years of working on it and steady improvement. This book was a breath of fresh air. Instead of thinking about brevity as an exclusively editorial exercise, every time, Roy Peter Clark presents all manner of short writing for study and discussion -- short writing we take for granted -- such as tweets, tattoos, and tombstones.

I was travelling and working a lot during the time I read this, and did not follow the writing
May 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a substantial book, and not exactly short. It covers a lot of ground.

A general assumption seems to be that most of us, most of the time, are writing for Twitter or for Twitter-besotten audiences. (Hence the "Fast Times" in the subtitle.) The author has a PhD in medieval literature and confesses to reading dictionaries for pleasure, but, at least according to what he wrote here, aphoristic writing enchants him most. Given these parameters, the book fulfills its mission: It essentially tel
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I like short writing. I like writing short. I like writing shorts. I like wearing shorts.
I like a lot about this book, and if I wrote more, I would do a lot more of the things he recommends/provides as exercises.
I think our culture needs incisive, short writing/writers.
I think it's difficult to write short well.
This book took me longer to read than I expected (and I found it while browsing a local library: nerd).
Each chapter is relatively short with some neat 'grace notes' at the end to help
Mar 10, 2018 rated it liked it
2.5-3 stars. I read this book for work and to improve my own writing. Overall, it has some good suggestions, but I think the author could have taken his own advice and cut this by about 50 pages. The gist: read examples of other writers who successfully write short and learn from them, be it in the form of tweets, news articles, fortune cookies, baseball cards, cereal boxes, prayers, songs, etc. Some of the examples and notes throughout the book are very helpful. Others seemed obvious or contrad ...more
Angell Johnson
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is an informative quick read, and it has helped me tremendously. I would recommend this book for beginning writers and apprentices because writing short is most feasible for the less experienced authors. Even famous novelists would appreciate a book so concisely constructed. I have a tendency to overthink short stories, which result in overwriting. I still overwrite, and now that I understand the techniques, I just cut out all the information readers would skip or simply abandon the bo ...more
Kelsey Hlavaty (readingwithkelsey)
2.5 stars - This was okay at best. I really appreciated the premise the novel and I am always super motivated to read novels that focus on the art of writing, but this novel just lacked. The chapters each brought forth different lessons and ideas surrounding the topic but were completely smothered by example after example; I was overwhelmed. Buried beneath these dull examples, were some good points, but the novel was just not engaging. I found myself skimming over a lot of them, and towards the ...more
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
I was expecting to like this, but ended up liking it even more than I thought I would. The author covers many different types and styles of short writing, and his examples incorporate everything from famous writings to T-shirt slogans to marginalia to twitter posts. He also includes practical tips for collecting short writing that catches your attention, identifying what makes it stand out, and then trying to incorporate those things into your own writing. Would definitely recommend if you're lo ...more
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
Good book! I studied English and enjoy the art of writing, so perhaps I found this to be an enjoyable and easy read over those who don’t have the same background, but I feel that Clark puts his argument, tips, and tricks, in favor of short writing eloquently. While I knew quite a few tips this book lays out, I learned loads. What I also appreciated is how Clark prompts the reader at the end of several chapters to try a technique for themselves. I absolutely ate this up!
Definitely recommend this
Susi Moffat
Jun 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.

I wanted to love this book, to get hints on how to be successful writing flash fiction, and it does give some good advice, but I struggled to understand a lot of the language and references. I had no idea to what he was referring sometimes, such as old and new soda can tab designs - I’ve only known cans as they are (as far as I remember). Same with some of the world events. I think this partly speaks of my ignorance, but possibly also of outdated references. The language was overly com
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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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