I’m not sure what I expected from How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark. But it was better than that. I make all the writing errors, especially using too many words. So, while I was looking for what might improve my writing, I learned much more about our craft. Writing short applies to all writing, but the focus of the book is intentionally writing well using fewer words.
Some of the best, most memorable English language writings are short. I try to keep my blogs brief, but they often surge over 800 words. I’ll continue to work on that; to chop, murder, and cut.
This book was great. For one thing, it’s a readable, friendly style to my liking. If you’re a writer, journalist, poet, or ad hack, this is a good book you. You can plow through it quickly.
The 35 brief chapters are divided into two sections. Section I, How to Write Short, has chapter titles that deliver on the promise to improve short writing. Such as the following famous short writes:
“These are the times that try men’s souls.”
“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
“A feeling is an idea with roots.”
Or, from the top of my blog page, Into every life rain must fall (from “Into each life some rain must fall” ~ Longfellow)
Dr. Clark provides motivation and reasons for short writing.
- To enshrine (monuments)
- To amuse (jokes, snarky comments)
- To explain (instructions)
- To narrate (microfiction, live blogs)
- To alert and inform (text messages, news blurbs)
- To remember (notes, lists)
- To inspire (proverbs, quotations, prayers)
- To sell (adverts, resumes, bumper stickers)
- To converse (Blog comments, Q&A, social nets)
The second section consists of 13 chapters where he tells how to write short with a purpose.
Even if you’re only mildly curious about writing short, I recommend this book.
Some WordPress blogs provide prompts that are helpful practice for developing the craft of writing short. One I like is one liner Wednesdays. Can you can suggest others?
Who would not like to get the point across in fewer words? Okay, some, but few.
Keep it short. Look both ways.