How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times

Reviewed by Deane Barker tags: writing

This book is ambitious in trying to teach us all how to write an effective short form, but it’s hit or miss.

It’s a firehose of information which sort of defies attempts to read it casually. There’s a lot there, and each chapter has exercises that you’re supposed to do – and I believe you do need to do them, because I didn’t, and my memories of the book are a big mis-mash. Never trust any book that tells you to go get a journal in the first chapter.

The macro structure of the book is a little odd. There are two parts – how to write short, and then the reasons and places where you might want to write short. This is strange to me. Shouldn’t the second part have come first?

Many of the strategies are really about how to write…lyrical? Eloquently? A lot of the book is about how to be pithy and witty. There are a couple of chapters on how to actually shorten your writing – I was an amused by an example of how to reduce Strunk’s classic chapter on removing words down to the size of a 140-character tweet.

All in all, I didn’t take away a lot, except for a general idea and awareness of the need to write short, and perhaps that’s bound up with a need to write lyrically? Perhaps eloquence helps carry writing where pure word count isn’t an option? I don’t know, but that’s about all I have.

Book Info

Roy Peter Clark

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