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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10 tips for organizing the pieces of your story

Use paper and pixels. (Deposit photos) Over the next few months, Poynter will publish shortened versions of 21 chapters of the book “Help! for Writers,” by Roy Peter Clark. Published by Little, Brown, the book lists common problems writers face and offers 10 solutions for each of the problems. Problem #5: I can never find what I need when … Read More
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'Save string' and 9 other things to do when your work habits are disorganized

There's a story in there somewhere. (Deposit Photos) Over the next few months, Poynter will publish shortened versions of 21 chapters of the book “Help! for Writers,” by Roy Peter Clark. Published by Little, Brown, the book lists common problems writers face and offers 10 solutions for each of the problems. Problem 4: My work habits are so disorganized. Read More
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'Talk to Shirley' and 9 other tips for reporting and research

When do you have enough? (Deposit Photos) Over the next few months, Poynter will publish shortened versions of 21 chapters of the book “Help! for Writers,” by Roy Peter Clark. Published by Little, Brown, the book lists common problems writers face and offers 10 solutions for each of the problems. Problem 3: I have trouble doing … Read More
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10 tips for making that assignment your own

You might be able to trade that assignment for a great story idea, but you have to have the idea ready. Photo by Deposit Photos. Over the next few months, Poynter will publish short versions of 21 chapters of the book "Help! for Writers," by Roy Peter Clark. Published by Little, Brown, the book lists common problems writers face … Read More
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Help! For Writers: 10 things to do when you can't think of anything to write

I have written five books – all published by Little, Brown – in the last ten years. They are, in order, "Writing Tools," "The Glamour of Grammar," "Help! For Writers," "How to Write Short," and, coming in January, "The Art of X-ray Reading." They are my children, and I love them equally. But in private … Read More
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Story dust: Lessons learned on feature writing from Lane DeGregory

Screen shot, St. Petersburg Times Not long ago, I heard myself saying something like this at a writing seminar: “It’s not a story yet; it’s just story dust.” • You are reading an old book, and inside, in a childish handwriting, is the name of the boy who first owned it in 1962, and a phone number. Read More
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Missing the great game story lead

Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) If I told you about the seventh inning of the game between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays, you’d think it was a stretch. What do you think of that lead? How would it look on top of a game story involving what baseball experts agree … Read More
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The winner of the Nobel Prize in literature went to j-school

Belarusian journalist and writer Svetlana Alexievich the 2015 Nobel literature winner, is surrounded as she leaves a news conference in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize in literature Thursday, for works that the prize judges called "a monument to suffering and courage." (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) Want to win a Nobel Prize … Read More
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Eight language lessons from Yogi Berra

Hall of Famer Yogi Berra waves before an induction ceremony at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 2009. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)Now it's over.  Yogi Berra has died at the age of 90. He leaves behind a legacy of baseball greatness, and a propensity for the memorable phrase.  Those of us who quote people for a … Read More
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Donald Trump and the art of the insult

Among Donald Trump's favorite rhetorical moves, there is the boast and the insult. He is likely to use both tonight in the CNN debate. It's gonna be huge! It's easy to see how the boast and the insult go hand in hand. Boasting builds me up, and the insult knocks you down. It turns out that these moves are ancient, and … Read More
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Hey, what’s the big idea – about journalism?

Ever since I was a little kid, I heard people say: “Hey, what’s the big idea?” In most cases, this phrase was a synonym for “What do you think you’re doing?” These were not real questions. They were challenges to perceived misbehavior: a kid sneaking around; someone going through your stuff. What if we asked that question and expected an … Read More
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12 tips for writing fast – or at least faster

To be a good writer, you have to learn to write slow. Some sentences or passages just take a long time. But slow writing need not be the norm. In journalism, the goal should be fast writing – or at least faster writing. I’m a pretty fast writer, but not the fastest. That distinction might go to Bill Blundell, formerly … Read More
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15 tips for handling quotes

In the almost 40-year history of the Poynter Institute, there have been few topics that generate as much debate among journalists as how to handle quotes. I love it when a dogmatic reporter argues, “I only use the exact words that a person says, nothing more or less.” Then comes my cross-examination: “Do you include every time the source says … Read More