Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 1-2-2022


writing, education, nonfiction, journalism, essay, self-help, education


Pity the Poor Reader” as an un-textbook, an irreverent “Elements of style.” Like Elements, it’s designed to complement textbooks. Pity is concise, memorable and portable. Under 300 pages, Pity serves as an aspiring writer’s keepsake.


Concision lies at the heart of Pity. The key concepts of writing well are distilled into irreverent, memorable lines and axioms. Many of them are organized as lists that are easily printed and taped to a wall or a computer. Indeed, in testing the book with my university students, I’ve found that many of them did print out its list of axioms to keep handy while writing. I’ve also overheard students quoting Pity’s axioms to their friends. While similar to “Elements” in spirit, Pity differs greatly in style, material and organization. My book draws on current events, history, student anecdotes and my own 30 years of experience as a writer - anything to make its lessons real and relevant. It’s written in a style that skewers all pretense and officiousness when it comes to the teaching of writing. The opening chapter about craft is titled “The Tao of Writing Poorly.” It parodies the poor way that writing is taught in many high schools and colleges. Pity tries to teach whenever possible through humor. It helps to make any lesson memorable.



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