Posts by Roy Peter Clark

About Roy Peter Clark

Senior Scholar

Roy Peter Clark has taught writing at Poynter to students of all ages since 1979. He has served the Institute as its first full-time faculty member, dean, vice-president, and senior scholar. He contributes regularly to Poynter.org on topics such as writing, reporting, editing, coaching writers, reading, language and politics, American culture, ethics, and the standards and practices of journalism. He is the author or editor of eighteen books. His most recent include Writing Tools, The Glamour of Grammar, Help! For Writers, How to Write Short, and The Art of X-ray Reading.
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The Daily Beast set to publish new work from famed columnist Jimmy Breslin

The Daily Beast will publish Saturday the first major piece of writing by famed New York City columnist Jimmy Breslin in more than a decade. That news comes from John Avlon, the Beast’s editor in chief, who once included five Breslin columns in his anthology of great newspaper columns titled “Deadline Artists.” The Daily Beast has been running The Best … Read More
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A salute to Charles Osgood, the bard of broadcast news

At the age of 83, news veteran Charles Osgood will be leaving CBS "Sunday Morning," after 22 years as anchor. He is known for two trademarks: a dapper bowtie and a penchant for turning news copy into verse. His first collection of news poems was titled "Nothing Could Be Finer Than a Crisis That Is Minor in … Read More
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7 ways to write a "kick-ass" column, via Sally Jenkins

This morning on Twitter I awarded The Washington Post's Sally Jenkins a gold medal for a "kick-ass column" she wrote about Olympic urinator Ryan Lochte. Check out her lead: "Ryan Lochte is the dumbest bell that ever rang." As I read and then re-read her column, I realized that I had placed it in an important and … Read More
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This election year, journalists must be watchdogs — and word dogs

Does anyone else feel as if the coverage of this presidential election is less about events, issues, ads and poll numbers than it is about language? Hillary Clinton and countless others have reminded Donald Trump that "Words matter." (By the way, Hillary, they should matter to you, too.) Like all short sentences, "Words matter" has that ring of gospel … Read More
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6 scribes from The New York Times who 'write good'

Donald Trump had this to say as part of his critique of The New York Times: "They don’t write good. They have people over there…they don’t write good. They don’t know how to write good." As a reader of the Times for more than a half-century, I would say that there are days on which Mr. Trump’s review would … Read More
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Fareed Zakaria, Donald Trump and the art of calling bullsh*t

I just heard CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, in a conversation with Wolf Blitzer, refer to Donald Trump as a “bullshit artist.” This surprise usage heats up the language wars that have become so prominent in the coverage of this presidential campaign. What’s next, a canny analysis of how one of the candidates “f-ed up” in this debate? This is not … Read More
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What does that cliché mean, anyway? Build your language muscles by finding out

Not long ago, my wife and I test-drove a Kia Soul (she bought a Toyota Rav4), but what struck us was the color of the Kia, a shade of green we had never seen on a car before. "It’s called Alien Green," said the salesman, "one of our most popular colors." Sure enough, we began to see this make and … Read More
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8 writing lessons from Michelle Obama's DNC speech

Great oratory magnifies the lessons of great writing. Written for the ear, memorable speeches tend to use certain rhetorical devices — such as parallelism or emphatic word order — in greater measure than less dramatic forms of communication. The language strategies rise to the surface, so you may not even need a pair of X-ray reading glasses to see them. Read More
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Journalists, America's not on the verge of disaster. Let's stop pretending it is

As a critical reader, it is important to analyze every word in a slogan, such as Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again.” This essay riffs off that last word: Again. That adverb suggests there was a time — somewhere in the past — when America was really great. So was America great in the 1820s, when slaves were property and … Read More
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Melania Trump's speechwriter made a common mistake. Here's how to avoid it.

One of the most frequent excuses for plagiarism is “I mixed up my notes.” That, in effect, was the justification that appeared in an apology today by longtime Trump ghostwriter Meredith McIver. When her name popped up, I recognized it right away. For months now I have had on my desk a Trump book titled “How to Get Rich.” … Read More
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Welcome to post-plagiarism America

If I harvested all the essays I’ve written about plagiarism since the 1980s, there would be enough of them to make a fairly boring and incoherent book. But of all the cases I’ve read about or adjudicated — in a literary sense — none feels more perplexing to me than the case of Melania Trump. I did … Read More
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Want a lesson in focusing your writing? Read this hole-in-one lead

I stood in front of 150 reading and writing teachers on Friday trying to describe the writing process. On a chart pad I drew a familiar model, one I’ve discussed countless times since I learned it from writing coach Donald Murray more than 30 years ago. Conceive Collect Focus Select Order Draft Revise … Read More
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Elie Wiesel to journalists: Never stop the search for meaning

Elie Wiesel, witness to the Holocaust, did not die at Auschwitz or Buchenwald. He survived for more than 70 years. His death this week at the age of 87 brought tributes and reflections from all over the world. He was a familiar figure in my town, St. Petersburg, Florida, where he wintered, teaching students at nearby Eckerd College. Early in … Read More
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Learn from the word craft of ‘Hamilton’ and make your stories sing

“Hamilton,” the musical, is a sensation, winner of 11 Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize. Try getting a ticket. Inspired by a thousand-page biography of Alexander Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda constructed a creative juggernaut based on two related ideas: that in our day the language of revolution is rap and hip hop; and that our founding mothers and fathers, many of … Read More