Tell It Like It Is: A Guide to Clear and Honest Writing

Little, Brown Spark. Apr. 2023. 320p. ISBN 9780316317139. $28. COMM
This book is a fine how-to for what Clark (sr. scholar, Poynter Institute; Murder Your Darlings) calls “public writing,” which he defines as a clear, compelling presentation of hard facts and urgent topics of contemporary life. The author argues that a transparent prose style is the most effective means of communicating big civic issues and pressing problems to a general audience. The book’s recommendations spring from samples of the best journalistic reports and from compelling social fiction, both of which must enable understanding of the most difficult realities of human life. Moreover, Clark notes, communicating with clarity fulfills a writer’s moral obligation to present the most sacred and profane human experiences in the clearest possible language. The book is arranged into three general sections, one for each characteristic of the best public writing: the obligation to use plain language, the power of storytelling, and the importance of honesty and candor.
VERDICT This book is a vigorous argument for literary commitment and transparency that is itself a delight to read.
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