10 useful writing tips according to Roy Peter Clark

A Potpourri of Vestiges Feature

Roy Peter Clark teaches everyone to write. He speaks at conferences around the world and is one of the most influential media consultants. Here are 10 tips from his book 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer.

Follow the word order

Begin the sentence with the subject and the predicate, putting the additional sentence members after. Even a long sentence can be simple and clearwhen the subject and the predicate make its content understandable. That was one of such sentence. The subject and the predicate are on the left, while all the rest is on the right. The clarity and strength of narration grow from the sentence to the sentence in the paragraph.

Use strong verbs

Use simple forms of present or past tense. Never use a passive voice if you can use an active one. You can find an example of this recommendation on the essay forever service.

The active form of the verb is easier to perceive than the passive one. In addition, it more expressively communicates the actions that take place.

Point as a stop signal

Put strong words at the beginning and end of sentences and paragraphs.

The comma in the sentence is a speed bump slowing down the reading speed, while the dot is a stop sign. At the point, the thought expressed in the sentence ends. A short pause in the stream of reading accentuates the last word. Any word after the point is attracting attention to itself. This effect is amplified at the end of the paragraph when the last words border with white space.

Read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Dr. King’s I Have a Dream to study the oratorical techniques for constructing a phrase.

Be careful with adverbs

Be careful in the use of adverbs, they can duplicate the meaning of words and signs. For example, look at this excerpt from Tom Swift and His Great Searchlight (1912):

“Look! – Ned suddenly cried out, - There’s a man! I’m going to talk to him! – Nedhotly declared.”

The exclamation mark after “Look” might have been enough to whet the curiosity of the young reader.

Look for original images

Look for original images, make lists of synonyms, and free associations – marvel at the capabilities of the language. Reject the clichés and creative ideas of the first level. When you are seduced by a banal phrase such as“white as snow,” stop writing. Do what the proponents of natural procreation call a “cleansing breath.” Then write the phrase on a piece of paper. Start to think up the options:
  • White as snow
  • Whiter than the Snow White 
  • Snow white
  • Gray as snow in the city
  • White as Prince Charles
Working with voice

The style of narration, the use of metaphors, slang, or scientific reasoning are all receptions, which a conversation with the reader is built on.They reflect the voice of the author. The most effective way to check a written voice is reading aloud. Read your material aloud to hear if it sounds like you, whether all parts of the text are consistent among themselves and are sustained in one intonation.
The author can read aloud to himself or the editor. The editor can read aloud to the author or another editor.

Name the big parts

It is easier to grasp the structure of an article if you can identify the main parts.

All good articles are divided into parts:
  • The introduction
  • The main part 
  • The conclusion
Even the author, on whose canvas you cannot see the seams, can point us at the unseen stitches. The author knows the big parts of the article, and he can name them for the reader, using subtitles. The reader who sees that the whole text is broken into parts will better remember the whole article.


Accurate and sharp texts are born from a skillful reduction. When you overcome the writer’s stupor, it is very easy to fall in love with one’s own words. This is a pleasant feeling, but it can lead to bad consequences. If you fall in love with your quotes, characters, stories, and metaphors, it seems impossible to delete one of them. But you must do that.

If your goal is to achieve brevity and accuracy, start by deleting large parts of the text. Smaller parts can be removed later.

Cut out any paragraph that does not support the central idea of the article. Cut out weak quotes, examples or scenes to give way to strong ones.

Cut any paragraph you created to fool the editor.Do not force the editor to cut the text. You know the material better. Mark the places for possible edits. Maybe they should be removed now?

Here are the other things you need to remove:
  • Adverbs, which puff up emotions, but do not change the meaning – such as only, entirely, especially, completely, and accurately. 
  • Constructions with a pretext that repeat what was said before: in this article, in this story, in this film, in this city (it is clear that a person is reading this article, there is no need to specify). 
  • Phrases that grow on verbs such as it seems that; it looks like that; should; I would like to. 
  • Abstract nouns based on active verbs like consideration instead of considering, judgment instead of judging, observation instead of observing.
Collect as much information as possible

Collect information – it can be useful for large projects in the future. To collect raw material for a large project, keep the scraps that others throw away.

When writers tell how they worked on large projects, they often use one of two metaphors to describe the method of work. The first one is composting. To grow a good harvest, you must first fertilize the land. To do this, many gardeners are doing a compost pile of organic wastein their garden, which collects useless remnants, such as banana peels.

The second metaphor is every little bit helps. Collecting every little detail, in the end, you are going to have a small ball that rolls into the bigger ball, and one day becomes of a very large size.

Write the final part

Any story has an end, even a template one. The prince and the princess lived happily until death. The cowboy rode off into the sunset. The witch is dead. The end.

For journalists, the end is a problem. The old genres of information resist sharp endings. News materials, written on the principle of an inverted pyramid, go from the most important information to less significant. In this case, the reader himself decides where the end of the material is when he stops reading. The busy editor is cutting from the end, without fear of removing something important.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated!

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