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

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
POYNTER

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
POYNTER

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
POYNTER

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
POYNTER

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
POYNTER

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
POYNTER

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
POYNTER

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
POYNTER

The legacy of puzzle master Merl Reagle and the gamification of news

Merl Reagle, a crossword-crafting master, died Aug. 22. (Credit: Tampa Bay Times) Merl Reagle had the soul of a copy editor and the style of a stand-up comedian. During his too-short life he was both of those and much more: musician, songwriter, author, and one of the world’s great puzzle masters. If you love crosswords – not cross words – … Read More
POYNTER

The Virginia shooting and the dark side of the social media age

I saw a clip of Matt Lauer today. He said that viewing the video of the murder of two journalists “took my breath away.” Here is the man, I thought, who broadcast to me news of planes flying into the twin towers on 9/11. It must take a lot to take this veteran’s breath away. Then I watched the one-minute … Read More
POYNTER

The language of migration: refugee vs. migrant

A file photo of a Syrian refugee carrying a baby over the broken border fence into Turkey after breaking the border fence and crossing from Syria in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)What is the difference between a migrant and a refugee, and which term describes a person crossing the Mediterranean Sea seeking asylum in … Read More
POYNTER

This is why we write stories

Most of the texts we call stories in journalism are more properly called reports. The imprecision of our nomenclature matters because the differences between reports and stories are important, both in how they are produced and how they are received. The differences, I have argued, begin with the purpose of a report. In general, we write reports to collect, sort … Read More
POYNTER

12 basics of interviewing, listening and note-taking

As a writer I would NOT give myself high marks for the crafts of interviewing, listening, and note-taking. But I have sat at the knees of journalists who are experts at these elements of craft: John Sawatsky of ESPN, Jacqui Banaszynski of the University of Missouri, and Tom French of Indiana University – all of whom have taught at Poynter. Read More
POYNTER

The Journalist and the Activist: the legacies of Julian Bond and Gene Patterson

Julian Bond of the Georgia state legislature and civil rights leader is seen in 1968. (AP Photo)A half century ago, Julian Bond fought for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. Bond is now dead, but his legacy lives on. So does that of the former newspaper editor and Poynter chairman Gene Patterson, who became Bond’s … Read More