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How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  759 ratings  ·  135 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, s
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published August 27th 2013 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2013)
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3.71  · 
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 ·  759 ratings  ·  135 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.
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-writing, reference
Gorgeously written (duh...) but advice is somewhat repetitive of earlier ‘Writing Tools’.

Strongly recommended!
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.
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.
Nadya Tsech
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
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).
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
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
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
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
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
Gail Richmond
Mar 09, 2018 rated it liked it
For a relatively short book, this is one, even with its positive points, that I had to plow through. Clark knows a lot, and SHORT writing is the topic, but the author is repetitive. I didn’t need everything ever written with three examples each. I will use some examples with my interns to help their writing.

Formatted like a textbook or workbook, the whole structure of exercises to complete your understanding seems clever until it is overkill.

3.5 for the useful parts, 2 for repeating and repeatin
Cameron M
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In the theme of brevity, allow me to give my few cents. I picked this up with some interest in copy-writing in the future for freelance work. Clark succinctly and accurately explains how to write short, and how to do it well. As a master of the craft with experience to his name, it's hard to refute (while having differing opinions perhaps) what this guy offers. Thank you, Roy, for many eye-opening insights and tips for how to write short.
Raine Baushke
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: beginning writers
This book has some nuggets of gold but spends a lot of words saying nothing. I read all of it and gained some wisdom but not much I didn't already know.

Editing everything to the most basic words that tell the story is one nugget of gold. I like examples. You can tell me to show, not tell when I write until the cows are chewing cud, but I want examples. This book provides some excellent examples of writing short. There could be much more.
Dec 06, 2017 rated it liked it
An interesting examination of all of the bits of short fiction and non-fiction we encounter on a day-to-day basis, from tweets and text messages, to fortune cookies, and the captions on photographs in magazines. The focus is on crafting and editing your own works to maximize impact while minimizing word count.
Jan 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
This book provides thoughtful guidance about how and why to write concisely. I enjoyed Clark's willingness to reference cereal boxes as much as Strunk & White - even more so his willingness to one up that classic advice. How to Write Short also provides lots of practical examples and exercises to try.
B. A. Bunner
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fic
I use this book in several of my classes. Roy Clark does a great job of not only justifying the need to learn short writing, but also offering plenty of techniques for any writer to add to their repertoire. As with most of his books, his snarky delivery makes it a fun read, as well.
This is one of the books I own for reference. I recommend you own it, too.
Anna Harris
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is awesome. Everything in it is of value. I love how Clark gives ideas of ways to practice what he preaches at the end of each chapter. Before I finished the book I was already utilizing the information. Each time I sat down to read I felt inspired to write.
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great SHORT Book

Loved this book so much. It was inspiring and left me a desire to develop my own artful parsimony in my prose. I came away from this book with an eye for beautiful or powerful short writing. Great book!
Shelby Aranyi
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Purchased to build my writer's chops around explaining complex work in a simple way. The first half of the book is wonderfully paced. Fond of the simple habits, lessons, and things-to-look-for. The later trips itself with long examples (amusing for obvious reasons.)
Lori Zavada
Jul 20, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was good, but "earth-shattering." Overall it was a good compilation of some things I already knew or perhaps suspected. It is written well and easy to consume. I plan to also go back through and look at the online references and resources.
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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
“battle the clock with a set of focusing questions: Why does the story matter? What’s the point? Why is the story being told? What does the story say about life, the world, the times we live in?” 0 likes
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