August 26, 2019

Forty years ago this week, Roy Peter Clark began working full-time at the Poynter Institute.

Since then, he’s taught countless journalists, educators, students and colleagues how to write. He’s coached Pulitzer winners like Tom French and Diana K. Sugg, just to name a few.

He’s also a prolific author, having written 18 books — the 19th comes out in January — including his classic “Writing Tools,” which has been published in eight languages with a quarter of a million copies in print.

In celebration of this 40-year milestone, we want to hear from readers and Poynter alums: What did Roy teach you? Your responses can come from his in-person teaching, from his many books or simply from reading his advice over the years on

We’ll compile the best responses (please keep your comments under 250 words in homage to his book “How to Write Short”). Email your thoughts to before Thursday at 4 p.m. for potential inclusion.

For inspiration, here are some of Roy’s recent pieces and greatest hits:

‘Lead’ vs. ‘lede’: Roy Peter Clark has the definitive answer, at last

8 writing lessons from Michelle Obama’s DNC speech

‘Three Little Words’: What I learned

What I learned about writing from watching Hallmark Christmas movies


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  • Once my news org hired Roy to coach all its writers. I considered this an insult from the bosses. But Roy was empathetic. I told him what I needed was not to be taught how to write well, but just how to write fast. I was very stressed and felt that most of the imperfections in my work were from having too much work and not enough time. But Roy nailed this one.

    He told me: just imagine you have jumped (or been pushed?) off a tall building with a portable typewriter strapped to your chest. This has sort of worked to make me say what’s important before hitting the ground.