Book Category: Writing,

How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times (book summary)

Author: Roy Peter Clark
Life Changing Principles
Quality of Writing
Overall Value
pros: Helpful, no-nonsense, inspiring
cons: None!
overall rating


Roy Peter Clark is a bit like the updated William Strunk for those who use Twitter. For the sake of the trend and to generally encourage human wit in the short format, he shares different examples of brilliant short writing and then breaks them down for consumption. This book is both an ode to the craft of short writing and manual of how to tidy up your own style, complete with activities and challenges at the end of each chapter.


  • The art of short writing is not a new or trending phenomenon, with classic examples like the haiku.
  • Advertising is littered with some potent short writing: pay attention to slogans and try to find the root of their skill.
  • Text is best consumed when it is broken up into easy to view pieces on the page: spaces should be used frequently and paragraphs shouldn’t be daunting, depending on what is being viewed.


  • Try to write in the pages of the next book you read.
  • Thoughtfully edit pieces of text you normally don’t pay a lot of attention to, like emails, texts, and etc.
  • Revisions should take longer and be more bloody (via the red pen) than you usually prefer.


The poet Peter Meinke talks about the power that comes from focus, wit, and polish. Focus is the unifying theme. Wit is the governing intelligence. Polish creates the sparkle that comes from careful word choice and revision.

Keep a daybook devoted to short writing.

You will run into great short writing in the most surprising places, from restaurant menus to rest room walls. Record these in your daybooks or snap a photo with your cell phone.

Single-glance texts fulfill countless purposes, from the coupon to the soup label to the side panel of a cereal box to an advertising sign on the outfield wall.

“Brevity comes from selection and not compression.” Donald Murray

Never read a newspaper, magazine, or book without a pen nearby. You already “talk back” to the author and text–at least in your mind. Get in the habit of writing those thoughts in the margins of the page.

Remember that literal language benefits from its coexistence with figurative words, from metaphors to literary allusions to sound imagery to symbolism and more.

Make a list of the informal texts you would be least likely to revise: e-mails, tweets, status updates, website feedback, instant messages. Resolve that for one week you will refrain from dumping these on your readers and will take a few seconds to correct and improve.