Tell It Like It Is: A Guide to Clear and Honest Writing is Roy Peter Clark’s seventh book on the craft of writing. This book is aimed at public writers. Although the term ‘public writer’ could easily apply to any person who writers for publication, the content draws from writing resources that would be particularly applicable and relevant to journalists, scientists, economists, fact-checkers, and storytellers who wish to inform the public using clear, balanced, and engaging writing. Like Clark’s other books on writing, the chapters are concise and easy-to-read. The fifty chapters are divided into three parts: Civic Clarity, Telling Stories, and Honesty and Candor.

The book feels very much a book of its time; it was written during the COVID-19 crisis and much of the material draws on the social and political events and concerns of that time. Clark captures and analyses pivotal moments when journalists, politicians, pharmaceutical firms, scientists, citizen journalists, and other public writers prioritised clear, fact-based, ethical, and often captivating reporting and publication. In a time of emotional upheaval, news reports were laden with individual human stories that reflected the experiences of thousands of communities across America and the world. Clark zooms in on an antigen test kit to illustrate the necessity for clear and short writing. He zooms out again to illustrate the brave and powerful writing and broadcasting of the COVID-19 pandemic, the attack on the US Capitol in January 2021, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

A Sample of Lessons

  • Introduce new or difficult elements one at a time in an order that makes sense.
  • Use an apt analogy as a tool to help readers learn something new by comparing it to something they already understand.
  • Show it like it is by telling it like it is: describe sights, smells, sounds and touch.


About Roy Peter Clark
Roy Peter Clark is a senior scholar and vice president at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies (a well-known Journalism school and research organisation in Florida). Clark has published seven books on the writing craft, as well as authoring and editing several books on Journalism. Having taught writing for more than thirty years to students and organisations, he is often referred to as ‘America’s favourite Writing Coach’.

His first book, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, was published in 2006 (another five writing tools were added to a tenth-anniversary edition in 2016). His other books on the craft of writing include The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English; Help! For Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces; How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times; Murder Your Darlings: And Other Gentle Writing Advice from Aristotle to Zinsser; The Art of X-Ray Reading: How the Secrets of 25 Great Works of Literature Will Improve Your Writing; and Tell It Like It Is: A Guide to Clear and Honest Writing.

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