How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark + 25 Writing Tips

28 January 2019


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how to write short cover

How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark – Author of Writing Tools – is a bible on writing short.

Writing is all around you. Whether you write for a living or you’re a texting maniac How to Write Short is an interesting book filled with useful writing tools.


I’ve always loved writing since I was a child. I was just that good at it because I hadn’t practiced or taken the time to study about it. That’s until I decided to start writing more. As time went along my writing got better because I practiced. Mainly because of this blog. Eventually, I decided to buy How to Write Short because I wanted to improve my writing even more. Any type of writing, especially Tweets, Instagram captions, and Facebook posts have made writing short one of the most important skills you can have to catch your reader’s attention instantly.


What I liked about How to Write Short

The subject matter is clear. The purpose is clear. Writing short is something we take for granted and may not even realize its importance. I like how many tools for writing short are in this book. Ironically its 250 pages long which is not exactly short, but thankfully each chapter is short.


At the end of each chapter, there are several exercises to help you implement the many lessons from the examples in How to Write Short. That makes this a book you could come back to time and time again to either practice the writing exercises or check your notes for anything you might be writing.


Roy does a great job of providing tons of examples of short writing related to the tip of each chapter. He doesn’t just give you one example. He’ll give you three or four then encourage you to give it a shot on your own. I took advantage of some of the exercises to practice some writing. I also chose some exercises I wasn’t comfortable with such as haiku.


My first haiku poem:

True understanding

Makes my heart shine so brightly

Only to be crushed


Recommended Reading:

The Storyteller’s Secret by Carmine Gallo


25 Writing Tips From How to Write Short

  1. Keep a short writing journal
  2. Practice short writing in small places like a napkin
  3. A list of 25 things is not short writing. However, each segment is short which makes it easy to read and seem shorter.
  4. White space on the page pleases the eyes
  5. Omit needless words
  6. The internet encourages airy prose
  7. The shorter the passage, the greater the value of each word.
  8. Every short passage should have a reward for the reader.
  9. Brevity comes from selection, not compression.
  10. Focus, focus, focus.
  11. Cut anything that doesn’t contribute to the focus of your writing.
  12. Imagine a short piece from the get-go.
  13. Cut adverbs, passive voice, strings of prepositional phrases, puffy Latinate words.
  14. The more powerful the message the shorter the sentence.
  15. Revise, polish and proofread everything.
  16. Try writing in forms you aren’t comfortable with such as haiku.
  17. Read and study examples from all sorts of writers with great short writing.
  18. The best place for an important word is at the end of the sentence.
  19. Begin the story as close to end as possible.
  20. Study the writing from fortune cookies and Valentine candy hearts.
  21. Cut big, then small.
  22. You need more time, not less, to write something good and short.
  23. Study editorials then practice cutting to make them shorter.
  24. Write a short mission statement for your short writing.
  25. Treat all forms of writing like headlines, blurbs, blog posts, tweets, text messages and anything else you can think of as literary genres.


What I didn’t like about How to Write Short

The only negative thing for me about How to Write Short was not all the writing tips were related to the type of writing I do. That’s okay though because I understand the book wasn’t written specifically for me. And don’t get me wrong, as you can see from the list of 25 tips, the book is useful.


Who Should Read How to Write Short?

Any content writer, novelist, journalist, nonfiction, or social media marketer should read this. In fact, any type of writer should read this.


Recommended Reading:

The Rule of Three


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One comment

  1. I will be taking a look at this book. Is there a lot of repetition since it is a lengthy book?

    9 May, 2020 at 9:36 am