In a world with too much propaganda, confusion, and misinformation, Roy Peter Clark offers us a kind of North Star. His indispensable new book makes an urgent case for clarity, honesty, and conviction. Clark once again teaches us something crucial. We should all be aiming to write with purpose, for the public good. Now more than ever, we need this book.”—Diana K. Sugg, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, Baltimore Sun
“Roy Peter Clark is to clear writing what Windex® is to glass.”—Neil Brown, president of the Poynter Institute and co-chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board
"There is no antidote to confusion and misinformation more powerful than Tell It Like It Is. Anyone seeking to make their writing more straightforward, compelling, and memorable needs to read this book."—Sewell Chan, Editor in Chief of the Texas Tribune
“Roy Peter Clark shares a toolbox for achieving clear and honest communication that’s invaluable for anyone who is—or wants to be—a public writer.”—Colette Bancroft, copy desk chief and book critic, Tampa Bay Times
“Required reading. With engaging anecdotes and examples from across many disciplines, legendary writing coach Roy Peter Clark shows us how to perfect our craft for the common good. I’ll be handing this book out to all the writers in my life who need guidance and, more importantly, encouragement and inspiration.”—Tom Huang, assistant managing editor, Dallas Morning News
“If you write public words for the greater good (talks, articles, letters-to-the-editor, even covid-test instructions), this elegant and handy manual will help you understand your topic imaginatively and deeply, then cast it as an engaging human story, and finally, edit with dozens of Clark's sensible and dynamic writing tips. I’m hardly alone among authors who regard Roy Peter Clark as America’s foremost (and funniest) writing teacher.”—Mark Kramer, co-editor of Telling True Stories and Founder of the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism at Harvard University
“With insight, wit, and generosity, Roy Peter Clark’s Tell It Like It Is gives us a fresh, necessary set of writing tools: essential tools for truth-telling we urgently need in the struggle against disinformation and demagoguery, and in defense of democratic self-rule and fact-based reality.”—Paul A. Kramer, Vanderbilt University
“There may be no more timely, thoughtful, useful and needed book in this age of disinformation and lying in public media than Tell It Like It Is. If you are eagerly awaiting advice and counsel on how to write your way out of the muck and mire that is our media public sphere, this is the book for you. Clark brings his experience, integrity, humor, and brilliance to bear in all aspects of his work as a writer and teacher. I hope this book gets on the shelf of every human being with a pen or a computer.”—Arthur L. Caplan, Mitty Professor of Bioethics, NYU Grossman School of Medicine
“Roy highlights how any of us—all of us—can be called to communicate with our fellow citizens through writing. With his signature, deft humor and inspiring observations, Roy offers a road map for upping your writing game that is actually fun to follow, while also making the case that clear public writing is a civic good that should be encouraged and applauded—particularly when it cuts through misinformation or willful disinformation. Best of all, Roy’s own sterling personal attributes—his patience, kindness, good nature and earnest desire to help anyone aspiring to get better as a writer—shine through on every page. Tell It Like It Is is insightful, entertaining and one of the best books on writing I have ever read—guaranteed to galvanize you into crafting sentences and stories before you’ve even put it down.”—Eric Deggans, TV Critic and Media Analyst, NPR
Practical advice to help achieve civic clarity in writing.
Poynter Institute senior scholar Clark returns with another warm and witty book on writing in these dark days of misinformation and propaganda. Organizing the book into three sections, the author’s goal is “to offer a succinct and practical guide to writing with clarity, honesty, and conviction,” and he focuses on what he calls the bright light of “public” writings by journalists, scientists, economists, storytellers, and poets. Clark begins with an example of good public writing: the instructions for an at-home Covid-19 test. The directions featured short paragraphs, simple words, lots of white space, and clear typography, delivering an effective message. The author ends each breezy chapter with a “Highlights” section of examples and suggestions—e.g., “Read your sentence aloud to see if you can follow it.” Short is always good when explaining complex issues. Avoid jargon, and use as few numbers as possible. Clear charts and graphs can be helpful. Write with the reader’s interest in mind. Let first drafts “cool off for a while.” An apt analogy is a “powerful but underutilized tool in the writer’s workbench.” In the second section, Clark turns his attention to telling good stories in the public interest. He explores the differences between reports and stories and the importance of writing in service of public ritual and working on making important information interesting. The last section focuses on honesty and candor in public writing and how writers can “develop a sense of mission and purpose.” Clark also reminds us that readers benefit from both showing and telling. He discusses the need for neutrality in public writing and the poison of propaganda as well as the best way to debunk information without calling more attention to it. He explains why he likes the semicolon and “one of the most useful and underappreciated words in the English language: that.”
A common-sense refresher course on clear, informative writing.