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.
POYNTER

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
POYNTER

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
POYNTER

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
POYNTER

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
POYNTER

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
POYNTER

Spoiler alert: We live in a recap media culture. Here's how to write a good one.

Here’s how it works in the Clark family. After a Sunday night episode of "Game of Thrones," I wait for my cell phone to twinkle. It's my daughter Alison, an actor who lives in Atlanta. What follows is a text message exchange, like this: Daughter: Did you see it?? Dad: OMggggggg. Seven Gods! Daughter: HOLY LORD OF LIGHT!!! Dad: … Read More
POYNTER

Bloody shoes worn by Orlando doctor reveal power of detail

As journalists and other writers try to make sense of the terrorism and slaughter in Orlando, they should take wisdom from Jim Dwyer, who covered both attacks on the World Trade Center for The New York Times. Speaking to reporters at a Poynter seminar, he passed along advice he learned from an editor: “The bigger, the smaller.” How do we … Read More
POYNTER

Can 'public journalism' reform campaign coverage?

At a time when America and American journalism seems befuddled by what constitutes effective campaign coverage — especially in the era of Bernie, Trump and Twitter — maybe retro is a place to look. But before we go back in time, let’s look at today. Criticism of press practice on election coverage has rarely seemed so furious. Among the complaints: … Read More
POYNTER

By shedding "Tribune," Tronc loses a connection to its watchdog past

I have been following the news that Tribune Publishing, owner of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, along with other properties, will be renamed as "Tronc." That name was coined as a combination of Tribune, Online and Content. A branding strategy has been to lowercase the name, the opposite of the uppercase POLITICO. For my tastes, the … Read More
POYNTER

What Muhammad Ali taught me about writing

Something strange happened to me on Friday night. I grabbed a T-shirt off a shelf and headed for bed, turned on ESPN and then drifted off. I awoke at about 12:30 a.m. and realized the television was still on. As I reached for the remote, I heard and then saw the news. Muhammad Ali was dead at the age … Read More
POYNTER

Misremembering Kitty Genovese

It appears that The New York Times will be without a public editor for the month of June. Margaret Sullivan now writes columns for The Washington Post, and her successor, Elizabeth Spayd, sets up shop in July. To avoid a June swoon, I volunteer to fill the job for a day — pro bono. This generous act was inspired … Read More
POYNTER

Where are all the women writing longform? Check the history of the Pulitzer Prizes

Why aren’t there more women doing longform narrative journalism? That is a question that Lane DeGregory, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Poynter-owned Tampa Bay Times, asked on her Facebook page. It sparked some interesting comments, from both men and women, and continued a discussion provoked by a recent comment from Gay Talese. Talese, one of the founding parents … Read More
POYNTER

Let's extinguish political clichés this year, starting with 'firestorm of controversy'

The purpose of this essay is to drown a political cliché: “create a firestorm of controversy.” I can’t think of any handy phrase in our political lexicon more overused than this one. In a morning’s Google search, I have found thousands upon thousands of examples on an endless series of topics, most of them dated from the last decade. When … Read More
POYNTER

For Obama's visit, let's revisit 'Hiroshima' — the book, not the city

When I read the news that President Obama was to visit the Japanese city of Hiroshima, one of the two atomic bomb sites from World War II, my thoughts rushed to a book by John Hersey. That work, titled "Hiroshima," hit me hard as a high school student, and I have written about it several times since then. My … Read More
POYNTER

Here's what the AP Stylebook needs to change in its 2016 edition

The AP Stylebook is a fine guide for journalists. For consistency and efficiency, it works. On occasion, it changes with the times, mostly for the better. At other times it clings to its preferences in spite of countervailing arguments. I have made such arguments, drawing my evidence from such guidebooks as "The Elements of Style" by Strunk & White. For … Read More