So how are serious problems like this reconciled within How to Write Short? They aren’t. Clark writes, “These arguments lead to an inescapable conclusion: that short writing, however crafty and clever, can be used (and has been used countless times) for evil purposes as well as good. There are many good things to sell in this world, from useful products to progressive ideas. Your soul isn’t one of them.” Yet the reader is never given any sense of how to guard against those titular “abuses of short writing” or how to unveil them in the culture because the deeper questions—Why are we writing shorter? What does this signify for our society? Is it a good thing?—are simply off the table. Asking them would interrogate the advice Clark concisely provides. Had this book been triple its length, had it towered over Bryan Garner’s Dictionary of Modern American Usage, had it adopted the cramped text of an old Dostoevsky novel, it still would not have found a place to wrestle with these questions.

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Trevor Quirk is a writer living in Saratoga, NY. Find more of his work at